Woman assaulted at Grand Mere, marking second attack at park within six months

NOW: Woman assaulted at Grand Mere, marking second attack at park within six months

STEVENSVILLE, Mich. -- Grand Mere is one of the most popular parks in Berrien County.

You can get right to Lake Michigan from the trails and it’s easy to access just off Red Arrow Highway – a corridor for I-94.

Twice in less than 6 months, though, a person or persons – who could be locals or stopping through – have lurked in the trails and attacked women.

It has residents understandably now scared to go back. 

“Grand Mere is really close to the highway so it’s very accessible for someone to come in and out and that leads to potential danger,” said Danielle Buhrfiend, a St. Joseph resident.

Between 6 and 8 Tuesday evening, an 18-year-old woman was enjoying what was supposed to be the peacefulness of Grand Mere’s nature when she was approached by a white man with dark hair and in his 30s who knocked her unconscious.

Hours later, she woke up with injuries and called police.

Officers said the victim was also potentially sexually assaulted.

Just five months ago, in April, a 28-year-old woman was attacked while with her dog on the trails by a man with a similar description.

Her dog fought back and bit the man, which sent him running. 

“These predators can hide in plain sight, someone who looks innocent walking down the trail might very well have ill intent toward someone,” said Chief Gary Soper with the Lincoln Township Police Department.

After that April incident, Lincoln Township police released a suspect description.

They are awaiting a separate sketch from Tuesday’s attack – which could very well be a separate suspect – but aren’t ruling out a possible connection. 

“I don’t want to comment too much on the physical description at this time, there are some similarities to the suspect in the April incident so that’s why we have not excluded that it could possibly be the same person,” said Chief Soper.

For Danielle Buhrfiend, she’s an avid hiker and always shares her location, carries bear spray and a hiking stick in case she confronts a predator.

“I look at the types of cars in the parking lot, I like to look at license plates, I like to know if these people are out of towners,” said Buhrfiend. “The other thing is, if you see someone on the trail, approach them – say ‘hi, oh nice day, good morning’ – you’re less likely to be attacked if they think ‘Okay, this person’s going to remember something.” 

Since Grand Mere is a state park, it is the Michigan Department of Natural Resources property.

ABC57 reached out to the DNR, which told us they have increased ranger patrols since the April incident.

As for installing surveillance cameras or other increased security measures, they said they do not disclose those plans.

The Lincoln Township Police Department said they also increased patrols at Grand Mere in April.

They’re also asking anyone who uses game cameras at the park to check their footage for anything suspicious and call them at 269-429-2444.

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