The attack on the 42-year-old Dallas woman, who was walking on an almost perfect day, resurrects the pall that fell over the popular, but isolated, trail after another woman was raped and murdered there in 2006.
Skott, who lives in Acworth, said he came up on Waddell early Tuesday evening about two miles after he biked pass the memorial to Jennifer Ewing, who was killed while on one of her daily 50-mile rides along the trail. Ewing's murderer, Michael Ledford, was convicted in 2009 and is now on Georgia's Death Row.
Sheriff’s Office spokesman Ashley Henson said there was no evidence of sexual assault on Waddell.
Skott, a surgical supplies salesman, was on his refurbished 50-year-old bike when he came upon Waddell crawling up an embankment at the 19 1/2 mile marker, just after he passed under an overpass. While the trail built on an abandoned railroad board is lined by trees and feels isolated, there are businesses at few yards away from the spot of Tuesday’s attack.
“I thought she fell off a bike,” Skott said. “I said, ‘Did you have an accident?’ And she said, ‘No. I was assaulted.’ I could barely hear her. She obviously had major head trauma… Injuries you couldn’t do with hands alone. …Her head was really swollen.”
On a recording of the 911 call Skott was calm. “We need (an) ambulance,” Skott told the operator.
Some questions from the 911 operator he could not answer.
“How long ago did it happen?” the operator asked.
“I don’t know. I just came here a half a second ago,” he said.
“Do you know if there were any weapons involved?”
“I have no idea,” Skott said.
The operator asks if it appeared Waddell had been sexually assaulted.
“She is dressed so I don’t not presume she was sexually (assaulted),” Skott said.
Waddell could be heard faintly in the background trying to answer some of the questions Skott relayed from the operator.
Asked her age, Waddell answered using her fingers.
Skott said while waiting for an ambulance he shooed yellow jackets away from her head and tried to keep her calm and still. Another walker along the trail came up moments later to help comfort Waddell.
After checking the time stamp on his phone, Skott said he stayed on the phone with the 911 operator until a sheriff’s deputy arrived about nine minutes later. The time on the recording showed the first deputy showed up in a little more than five minutes.
“I told her help was on the way,” Skott said. “For me it lasted an eternity.”
Skott said an ambulance came five minutes after that.
According to sheriff’s spokesman Henson, the attack was very “violent,” the injuries extremely severe.
“From what we have learned, detectives believe that the female was taken into the wooded area and left there by the attacker,” Henson said. “As of now, detectives are trying to determine what the motive for this attack was.”
Investigators on the incident report listed a phone as the only item taken from Waddell, suggesting the attack may have started as a robbery. Aggravated battery, theft and robbery were the crimes listed on the report.
The attack was on the trail between the Chamber of Commerce and Tara Drummond Trail Heads, perhaps as early as 5 p.m. Tuesday though Waddell was discovered around 6:30 p.m. She was walking toward Hiram, Waddell told her rescuers.
The Sheriff’s Office is asking for anyone who saw anything suspicious between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. along that stretch of the trial to call 770-443-3015.
The Silver Comet Trail is 61.5 miles along an abandoned railroad bed that runs through Cobb, Paulding and Polk counties. Much of it passes through isolated areas. At the Alabama state line, the Silver Comet trail connects to the 33-mile long Chief Ladiga Trail.