Tulsa Park Joggers Relieved After Rape Suspect Arrested

Monday, March 12th 2012, 10:01 pm
By: News On 6

Tulsa Police announced Monday the arrest of two suspected serial rapists. One is Willis McPherson, a 25-year-old accused of raping a jogger at LaFortune Park a few weeks ago.

03/12/2012 Related Story: Tulsa Police Announce Arrest In LaFortune Park Rape

One woman jogger said she's thankful an arrest has been made and that it's a morale boost for the community. Others say last month's attack had them so rattled, they took their workouts indoors.

Many people at LaFortune Park say they've been looking over their shoulders for the past month.

"It's exactly because of the rape. They are seeing this on the news and going ‘oh no I'm not doing that. I'm not going to be one of those people's victims,'" said LaFortune Park walker Katie Conklin.

The community was shaken after the sexual assault.

"I had an anxiety attack. It worried me because I come out here a lot," said LaFortune Park runner Megan Calhan.

"It's just a nice park and the fact that somebody come in here and make it uncomfortable for people to run," Wes Johnson, walker.

Uncomfortable enough that many changed their workout routines.

"I was like never come back alone. And now we're on a buddy system," Calhan said.

"I don't come in the mornings. Only when there is lots of light and lots of people. Or I run at the gym," said Michelle Horgen, runner.

"I try to run when I know there is going to be a lot of people out," Jon Minter, LaFortune Park runner.

The park sees a lot of traffic. No one imagined something so heinous could happen in such a busy place.

During the early morning of February 16, 2012, a 19-year-old woman was sexually assaulted while running.

The attack happened on the park's popular jogging path and not far from 51st street. But the area is somewhat hidden from view.

2/20/2012 Related Story: Tulsa Police Continue Search For LaFortune Park Rapist

Police arrested 25-year-old Willis McPherson as suspect in the assault.

"I know that there has been a lot of tension in the city because of it. A lot of people afraid to get out and do anything at night. Of course there will be others. But I think it's a boost to morale when someone like this is apprehended and stopped," Conklin said.

But although park goers say they are relieved, their outdoor haven has been tainted. And some say they won't ever feel entirely safe.

"But it's just a shame that the young woman had to endure that humiliation in this nice place," Johnson said.

McPherson was arrested just days after the attack in LaFortune Park but for a separate rape in an apartment complex just a few blocks away. He is currently being held in the Tulsa County Jail.