Woman attacked on Hamblen County nature trail

(source: Rachel Winstead)
(source: Rachel Winstead)

MORRISTOWN (WATE) – A man has been arrested after a woman was attacked on a trail in Panther Creek State Park in Hamblen County.

Rachel Winstead posted photos to Facebook of the injuries to her neck and shared details about how Marvin Velazquez approached her on the trail and tried to strangle her. Velazquez is charged with aggravated assault. Winstead hopes by sharing her story, people will be more aware and not fearful.

Winstead said she was attacked out of nowhere. She didn’t make eye contact or look in the direction of the man until he punched her in the face.

Marvin Velazquez (source: Hamblen County Sheriff's Office)
Marvin Velazquez (source: Hamblen County Sheriff’s Office)

“All I could think to do is be as loud as I possibly could and be as inconvenient to attack as I could possibly be,” she said.

Winstead fought back, even taking a picture of her assailant, but that’s when things got worse.

“That’s when he strangled me that was by far,” she said, as tears began welling up in her eyes. “I don’t want to be the crying girl, but to not be able to breathe and to have the one defense that I thought was on my side taken away was very scary.”

He eventually stole her phone, which allowed police to track Velazquez to his home where he was arrested. Winstead and her husband hope this story keeps others safe.

“The only one I’ve explained anything to is my oldest, the two little ones don’t really know and I’m not sure how or when I might tell them,” Winstead said.

Winstead says she doesn’t want this to reflect negatively on the park and suggests hikers be more aware of their surroundings, travel in a group, and make sure someone knows where you are if you head out on a trail.

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