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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Police have arrested and charged the man believed to be responsible for a recent string of sexual assaults at shopping centers in south Charlotte.
Juan Carlos Torres Lemuz, 27, was taken in for questioning after being caught at the Harris Teeter at 11516 Providence Road Monday morning. It's the same store where he allegedly groped another woman last week.
Shortly after police detained Lemuz, a woman in the parking lot came forward and told officers that he had just groped her moments earlier.
"I can't get into his mind. I don't know what he was thinking," said Captain Jim Wilson in the South Division.
Lemuz has been charged with four counts of sexual battery: Two charges for each of the incidents that occurred at the Harris Teeter, and two charges for a Wal-Mart case where the suspect assaulted two victims.
Shoppers we talked to say they are relieved to know he's off the streets.
"Well, praise the Lord they caught him," said Ann Rogers. "I'm glad it's over," said Joyce Sperow, another shopper.
Lemuz has not been charged concerning an incident that happened at the Union County Harris Teeter. The woman in that case did not want to press charges.
Our police sources tell us Lemuz' criminal history dates back to 2003 and has been arrested several times, including for armed robbery.
CMPD said they stepped up patrols at shopping centers last week after the fondling incidents were reported.
Two incidents happened at the Wal-Mart store on Highway 51 on Tuesday, May 18th. One incident occurred at the Harris Teeter store at 11516 Providence Road on Saturday, May 15th. Two more incidents occurred sometime in between those two dates at another Harris Teeter store in Union County.
WBTV talked to Dan Biber, a forensic psychologist who gave us insight as to what drives a person to sexual violence.
"Let's call it adrenaline," he said. "He gets a rush. Part of the rush is not just the sexual rush of groping women, but also the rush of doing it in public when there's a high risk of detection that he successfully avoids."
That is frightening to shoppers like Tracy Brown who said, "That's even more frightening to know that someone is getting a rush from assaulting people because, ultimately, that's what you're doing."
Biber also said the suspect could be rationalizing his actions by downplaying the severity of the assaults.
"He might in his own mind, think this is no big deal," he said. "He might just think, well, rape would be bad but this doesn't count."
During the incident on Saturday, May 15th, a girl in the Harris Teeter at 11516 Providence Road was forcefully fondled from behind by a male.
Police said two more women reported being groped at a Harris Teeter in Union County. Before Union Co. deputies arrived, two employees escorted the suspect off the property because the victims didn't want to press charges.
Another incident reported was on Tuesday, May 18th. Two women told police they were forcibly fondled at the Wal-Mart store on Highway 51. The incident happened around 2:24 p.m.
Investigators said the two victims, who are 55 and 47 years old, actually tried to restrain the man--but he was able to get away.
Last Thursday morning, police released in-store photos of the suspect from the two incidents at the Providence Road Harris Teeter store. The photos were taken on May 15th between 12:15 and 12:20 pm.
Wal-Mart released a statement last Wednesday about the issue.
"This is a serious matter and we've been working with police since the time it was brought to our attention," said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Ashley Hardie. "We'll continue to cooperate in their investigation and provide information as necessary. As this is an ongoing situation, any further comment would be best served coming from the Charlotte Police Department."
Meanwhile, workers at the Arboretum said they were surprised they were not informed about the alleged incidents. They claim the landlord did not send out communication informing them of such attacks and to tell their customers to be on the lookout. The landlord did not return our calls about this matter.
Meanwhile, Harris Teeter told WBTV it has hired extra security to help keep customers safe.