MANDEVILLE, La. - Nearly 300,000 people use the 31-mile St. Tammany Trace path for recreation every year.
But Wednesday, authorities say 26-year-old Edward Callahan from Slidell used it to attack a 19-year-old girl.The motive, they believe, was robbery. He remains in the St. Tammany Parish Jail Thursday night facing charges for second-degree battery and attempted robbery.
Authorities say the victim was walking home from work, while they say the suspect was walking the path for a target. Deputies say without interaction or provocation, he just attacked her by grabbing her neck.
'A bicyclist thwarted the attack and notified the sheriff's office,' said Chief Deputy Brian Trainor. 'We deployed our criminal patrol division, our special operations divisions, K-9s as well as our Air One. And we had the suspect in custody within 30 minutes.'
Callahan was found hiding on the side of a community pool house in a nearby neighborhood.
Dozens of people saw the search in progress, many more heard about it through the news and social media. People said it is scary, but they won't be run off.
'I always feel like it's safe, but I think it's like any situation there's always somebody that will take advantage,' said Joe Campbell from Abita Springs.
Elizabeth Coogan said, 'This isn't going to stop us from coming on the trace, but I do think people need to be aware and maybe this will be an eye-opener for them.'
The parish says rangers patrol the path, deputies watch over trailheads and cameras keep an eye in-between. It's for those reasons, they say this situation should not change a thing.
'Yesterday's attack on the Trace shouldn't thwart any family from getting out there and enjoying that as a leisure activity,' said Trainor. 'It's a safe environment. Thousands of people utilize it every week with no problems.'
Eyewitness News has learned Callahan has had trouble with the law in the past, including convictions for possession of marijuana and aggravated battery.