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Only on 9: Local federal agent helps woman, 80, who was raped in the Bahamas

CHARLOTTE — After an 80-year-old woman was raped in a hotel room in the Bahamas, her family said a federal agent from Charlotte came to her aid.

Homeland Security agent Tom Justice found her in an elevator and helped police arrest her alleged attacker. Justice is a Special Agent at the Charlotte field office and was there on assignment.

It happened while the woman and her daughter were vacationing last month, but the details are just being made public. Now, the family has asked Channel 9′s Hunter Sáenz to help them warn others about the nightmare experience.

The family of the woman is calling Justice, who was at the resort with them, a hero.

“It’s just unspeakable and unimaginable for us,” said her son, David.

The details are disturbing. David said in late January, his 80-year-old mother, who lives with Alzheimer’s disease, traveled from their home country of Canada with his sister. They were visiting the Warwick hotel in Nassau, Bahamas.

During dinner one evening with new friends they had made, a man invited himself to join them. Afterward, everyone went their separate ways.

“Once they got to the elevator, this other gentleman was in tow and got on the elevator with them,” David said.

At his mother and sister’s floor, he said, the elevator doors opened.

“My sister reflexively stepped out and she turned around immediately,” David said. “And as she was turning around, the doors closed. And essentially my mother just vanished.”

Panic ensued. Then, an all-out search began. Multiple people, including Justice, went floor by floor and door by door yelling the mom’s name.

After nearly 40 minutes, Justice learned police were in the lobby, so he went to the elevator to head down and meet them.

“The doors open up and there is my mother with this assailant,” David said.

“He pinned the guy in the elevator.... Down the elevator they went to the lobby. He pulled him out, the police took over,” he added.

That’s when his sister, who was in the lobby, knew something terrible had happened.

“My mother was holding her underwear,” he said.

Tests at the hospital showed their 80-year-old mother had been raped. That stranger on the elevator is now charged with the crime. He’s accused of assaulting her in his hotel room.

David is just thankful that agent from Charlotte was there.

“We just feel like the special agent was a gift,” he said.

Now, the family is warning everyone.

“They need to be cautious with their loved ones who are vulnerable,” David said.

Charlotte’s Homeland Security office is praising Justice.

“HSI management is aware of the actions SA Justice undertook while on temporary duty and are proud of the way he went above and beyond to protect the welfare of others,” a spokesperson said. “His actions are in keeping with the highest standards of this agency.”

No one from the hotel would answer Hunter Sáenz’s questions on Wednesday, but David and his family feel the hotel didn’t do enough to help find his mother. They’re now considering a lawsuit.

Less than three weeks ago, the U.S. State Department issued a Level Two travel advisory for the Bahamas. That means they’re urging travelers to be extremely cautious due to violent crime like sex assaults and armed robberies.

Officials say the majority of crime is happening in Freeport and Nassau -- where that family was staying.

>> If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sex Assault hotline at 800-656-HOPE. It’s available 24 hours a day.

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Hunter Sáenz

Hunter Sáenz, wsoctv.com

Hunter is a reporter for Channel 9.