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Clermont remains on edge
In close-knit community, alarm, confusion over July attack
Longtime Clermont resident Tommy Doster, Double Cola in hand, walks Friday along Main Street in downtown Clermont after a getting a haircut nearby. Residents of the small North Hall community are still in shock from the recent reports that a resident was stabbed and raped.

More than two weeks after a 24-year-old woman reported she was stabbed and raped at a North Hall home, no arrest has been made and little information about the case has been released.

Hall County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Chad Mann said Friday there is no new information to release on the case, and that “evidence is still being gathered.”

The incident happened between 8:30 and 9:09 a.m. July 31 at a home on Avalon Commons Way, according to the incident report. The upscale neighborhood is off Bethel Road about 4 miles southeast of Clermont.

Deputies found the woman with a stab wound to her abdomen. She told authorities that a man, a stranger, had confronted her at her home, then assaulted her, took some items and fled.

The sheriff’s office has said that there is no reason for the public to be concerned about safety, but residents have expressed alarm.

Town Clerk Sandra Helton is a longtime resident, having lived in Clermont for 25 years and raised three kids; an 18-year-old son and two daughters, 20 and 22.

“My daughter, she’s 20, and she was afraid to take a shower by herself in the house after the attack, for a few days, actually,” she said. “I was alarmed, too, but I didn’t want my kids to see that.”

Helton said fear was a common sentiment, adding that a co-worker said her teen daughter also was afraid of being home alone.

The incident happened fewer than 2 miles from her home, Helton said.

For 18-year-old Jessica Colletti, the incident hit even closer to home. She lives mere blocks from where the attack was reported.

“I was actually out walking by myself at night when I heard about it,” she said.

Colletti described feelings of shock and panic as well.

“It was crazy, to be honest. It made me think, ‘I don’t have a weapon. My boyfriend doesn’t have a weapon. If someone were to attack us, there’s nothing we could do to defend ourselves,’” she said.

Most residents said they felt comfortable leaving their doors unlocked in the quiet community, but not after hearing about the alleged attack.

“I go running in Clermont a lot, sometimes even at night, and always felt very safe,” Helton said.

Jayne Lovell Dale, in response to a Times enquiry on Facebook into reactions to the case, said the report was troubling because of the rural nature of the town.

“I am concerned. Many people that live in the North Hall area have acres of land, live on dirt roads or out in the country. Are we safe to go out where neighbors are not close? Are our kids safe to ride bikes where neighbors are not close? I would like to be officially informed as to the details of this incident and others in the community. ... We, as a community, need to be kept informed,” she wrote.

Tommy Doster is something of a Clermont staple. A 50-year resident, he has served as mayor, owner of the general store and minister, all at the same time at one point.

As he was leaving the barber shop on Main Street, he spoke to the smaller, close-knit community Clermont used to be, one where reports of an vicious assault were unheard of.

“That’s the way the community has been — we take care of each other,” he said. “We helped raise each others kids, didn’t do each other no harm.”

More than anything, like Dale, Colletti said she wants more information.

“The only information I really even get about it now is all word of mouth,” she said.

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