A single post on a community bulletin board of the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association (SORBA-CSRA) has disturbed, confused and baffled thousands of people throughout the Augusta area this week.
Some are terrified. Some are alarmed. And some are wondering what really happened.
“I wanted to let you know about the assault that happened to my husband around 9 p.m. last night,” the woman wrote, referring to Saturday, July 26. “He had been out at FATS [Forks Area Trail System] most of the afternoon and decided to head over to Stevens Creek for a short ride.”
The man had left the Forks Area Trail System and was traveling down the Modoc/Stevens Creek Trail when his alleged nightmare began.
“He was riding back to his car, and was about 0.5 miles from the parking area at the trail head, when three men in full camouflage stretched a rope across the trail, which he rode into, throwing him off his bike,” she wrote. “He lost consciousness for a little bit and when he opened his eyes one of the guys was slamming his head into the dirt, which eventually ripped off his helmet.”
As the man began to fully regaining consciousness, the woman writes he was horrified by what he saw.
“The assailant on top of him then attempted a sexual assault, while telling him that those woods were for hunters only, and that he was going to learn tonight,” she wrote in the public forum. “My husband was eventually able to fight him off and run away, but they were armed and fired a shot at him.”
The woman insisted that these men, dressed in camouflage, were “extremely dangerous.”
“The men were white and were at least in their 30s, if not a bit older, and were large enough to take him down,” she wrote, adding that her husband is 6’3” and weighs 200 pounds. “Though one of the three was smaller/shorter than the other two, who were around 5’8.”
“They had left all of his possessions (bike, helmet, etc.) in the woods, which he retrieved this morning with the police,” she wrote. “The deputies are investigating it now, and have added an extra ranger to patrol the trails but please please please be careful if you must go out there… Unfortunately, as much as he liked riding there he says he will never go back out there again.”
Within a few hours, a moderator on the SORBA-CSRA website confirmed that officials from the McCormick County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Forestry Service were investigating the alleged incident.
By 4:50 p.m. on Sunday, SORBA-CSRA’s website posted the following warning:
“A recent post on the SORBAcsra forums describes a violent attack on a mountain biker that occurred on Modoc/Stevens Creek Trail last night (07.26.14). The USFS has acknowledged that their Law Enforcement Officer and a McCormick County Sheriff’s Deputy were at Modoc this morning investigating. Please be careful and we’ll post more information as it becomes available.”
“This is insane,” dgaddis1 wrote in a post. “The story is spreading like wildfire though, I bet they catch the guys. I hope they do. I’m glad your husband got away okay!!!”
The first local news organization to report the incident was Edgefield Daily.
The newspaper posted a story on Sunday around 6:20 p.m. on its webpage, edgefielddaily.com.
“A mountain biker riding on the FATS trails in the Merriwether area on Saturday decided to end his ride by going down to Stevens Creek,” the newspaper reported. “On the trip back to his car three men in ‘full camouflage’ reportedly stretched a rope across the trail causing the rider to be thrown from his bike around 9 p.m. The three men then attacked the downed rider and attempted a sexual assault before the man was able to fight them off and run from the scene. At least one of the men is said to have then fired a shot at the victim as he ran away.”
“What is going on in this world???” wrote Cheryl S. on one Facebook site.
“When asked if I worry about bears and such when out in the woods, I always reply the same: The only creatures I worry about are the ones that walk around on two legs,” commented Carlton C.
As the posts began circulating about the alleged attack, many people questioned whether the Modoc/Stevens Creek Trail was safe.
“Wow… really scary. We won’t be going out there anymore,” wrote Missy J. on a Facebook site. “That’s really sad that criminals have to ruin things for the rest of us. I hope they get caught and are punished to the full extent-since this was on federal property. I’m thankful the victim is okay.”
Meanwhile, one constant theme in people’s reaction to the alleged incident was a comparison to the 1972 movie, “Deliverance,” starring Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty and Ronny Cox.
In the movie, four Atlanta businessmen take a canoe trip down a river into the remote Georgia wilderness, but have a run-in with some local mountain men.
During a famously gruesome scene in the movie, some hillbillies violently rape the character played by Ned Beatty and demand that he “squeal like a pig.”
Before a second character played by Jon Voight is orally raped, Burt Reynold’s character kills one of the hillbillies with a bow.
“Omg! Something out of Deliverance!” Carrie B. commented on one Facebook post.
“Where was Burt Reynolds when we needed him?” Guillermo B. responded.
A person calling themselves Shupack on the Mountain Bike Review’s forum wrote, “Pedal faster, I hear banjos…”
On many posts, the comments turned to the need for people to arm themselves with guns at all times to ensure they are safe.
“Highly disturbing,” Kevin S. commented. “Pretty sad when you literally need to be carrying a gun anywhere and everywhere.”
“That’s why I have a taser,” Geena W. wrote.
“Crazy,” Wade C. wrote. “At a minimum every runner, cyclist, walker, etc… should carry pepper spray and a whistle for this type stupidity.”
But as the day progressed, some people began to question the woman’s account of the alleged incident.
“Hunters don’t act like that, not locals anyway,” Gary B. wrote. “They better catch em before the local hunters do.”
Greg S., a former investigator with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, posted on The Austin Rhodes Show Facebook page, “Too many questions unanswered. Not ready to jump on this band wagon yet.”
“I’m with Greg,” Pat J. commented. “Something smells here, too many questions not asked and answered. NUFF said.”
By Monday morning, more and more people were questioning the woman’s account of what happened to her husband.
“I’m throwing the B.S. flag on this one,” Steve E. wrote on The Austin Rhodes Show Facebook page. “Don’t believe everything that you read.”
“As my dad used to say, something about this just doesn’t pass the smell test,” Kim B. stated.
“So what the f*** is in season in SC right now that would bring hunters in to the woods anyways?” KJ wrote. “I don’t carry in the woods, but I couldn’t blame a rider for doing it. Especially if he/she is riding alone.”
Speculation continued much of the morning until the McCormick County Sheriff’s Office released the incident report filed by the alleged victim.
The cyclist from Lexington, S.C., told deputies that he was alone biking in the woods around 9 p.m. on Saturday night when all of a sudden he was knocked off his bike by a rope of some kind that was stretched out between two trees.
The cyclist said he “must have hit his head on something” because when he was finally able to open his eyes, there were three men that were assaulting him. He told the deputy that one of the men was attempting to take his shorts off to sexually assault him, while the other two were “waiting their turn.”
The alleged victim then said he reached up to elbow the unknown subject in the face and ran away.
As he was trying to get away, the cyclist told deputies that one of the suspects shot at him.
In order to protect himself, the incident reports states the man “shot back with a 40 Glock that he had in his possession.”
The deputy asked if the Lexington, S.C., man needed medical attention, but he refused. He was also offered a ride in the deputy’s car back to his own vehicle, but the cyclist again refused.
The incident report states the cyclist decided to walk back on his own because “he had urinated on himself and he did not want to get (the officer’s) seats wet.”
When they arrived back at the man’s vehicle, the cyclist requested that the deputy “contact bloodhounds and helicopters and go back into the woods to find the unknown subjects” and retrieve his bike.
But the officer said that it was too dark in the woods to return and the county did not have the manpower or resources to perform such a search at that time.
The cyclist told the deputy that he did not know what the subjects looked like, only that “they were wearing camouflage and had part of their faces covered, but could tell that they were white.”
The deputy again offered the cyclist medical attention, but he refused.
Instead, he called his wife and told her what had happened and informed the deputy that his family was driving from Lexington County to pick him up.
As a result, the deputy drove the cyclist to the 88 Mart in Clarks Hill to wait for his family to arrive.
In the end, the incident report seemed to create more questions than provide answers for many people throughout the community.
Why was the cyclist alone on the trail after dark? How could he possibly be knocked off his bike by a rope stretched between two trees and not be seriously injured?
The woman claiming she was his wife on the SORBA bulletin board said the attackers were “slamming his head into the dirt, which eventually ripped off his helmet.”
That detail did not make it into the incident report.
What were three men dressed in full camouflage hunting in late July?
Even the McCormick County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed this week that there is no hunting season currently open.
The incident report states that the victim was carrying a .40 Glock with him while cycling. That’s a large caliber gun. Where was the cyclist carrying that gun? When he was thrown from his bike and temporarily knocked out, how was able to reach the gun?
Especially considering one of the attackers was allegedly attempting to take his shorts off.
Perhaps he was wearing a fanny pack, where he could have possibly had his gun, phone and wallet right by his waist.
But there are still a lot of unanswered questions that have even members of the local law enforcement questioning the alleged attack.
“Would you go riding on the trail at 9 p.m.?” asked one McCormick County deputy, who did not wished to be named in the story.
The McCormick County Sheriff’s Office announced on Tuesday that it, along with the forestry department, hadn’t found much evidence relating to the alleged attack along the biking trail.
In fact, they had found only one spent shell casing.
The only person who can really fill in the blanks as to what happened this past Saturday night is the alleged victim.
The Metro Spirit attempted to reach the cyclist from Lexington, S.C., whose name was redacted from a sheriff’s office incident report, on several occasions following the alleged attack.
The cyclist did not return any of the Metro Spirit’s phone calls and, when a reporter drove to his home in Lexington, S.C., earlier this week, no one answered the door.
Meanwhile, the entire Augusta area is left wondering: What really happened in the wooded trails in McCormick County? Are there “Deliverance”-like hillbillies waiting in the woods? Or has someone just been watching too many movies?