Custodian foils rape attempt at Leigh Mall

June 26, 2013 10:58:23 AM

Sarah Fowler - [email protected]


A career felon faces charges of attempted sexual battery after he allegedly attacked a woman in a restroom in Leigh Mall Saturday. 


Sammie Lee Smith, Jr., 50, of 158 Community Road, was arrested Saturday night by officers with the Columbus Police Department after police say he attacked a woman in the mall's public restroom. Smith was pulled off his victim by a Leigh Mall employee who heard the woman's screams. 


Leigh Mall Property Manager Gail Culpepper said the young woman was attacked shortly before the mall's 9 p.m. closing time. 


"A male approached a female from the restroom area right at our closing time," Culpepper said. "He did pursue her into the restroom and they struggled. She was very afraid and, luckily, my employee, who was right where he should be at the time, did go to her rescue. He heard the scream. He followed the scream and he pulled him off the female and he did hold him until the police got here." 


Culpepper declined to identify the name of the employee but confirmed he worked the night housekeeping shift. Three mall security guards were on duty at the time of the attack, but the custodian was closer to the scene and arrived first. 


The alleged incident occurred in the public restroom near the back entrance of Leigh Mall. 


Mall employees, who were discouraged from speaking to the media and asked that their names not be used, said the victim's screams could be heard throughout the mall 


"The screaming. Oh my God, the screaming," one employee said. "You could hear her all the way down the mall." 


Another employee said he observed Smith sitting on the bench outside the restroom. He said Smith followed the victim into the restroom moments after she went in. 


Smith has been arrested by local law enforcement 14 times since 1998 on charges ranging from simple assault to stalking to trespassing. He was also held for a mental evaluation in 2000. 


He is currently in the custody of the Lowndes County Adult Detention center on a $100,000 bond. 


The investigation is ongoing.

Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.