Omaha police suspect that a man who told officers that he sexually assaulted a young Omaha girl 20 years ago may have done the same thing to others, and officials want to hear from the public.
Joseph L. Pierce, 54, was ordered to stand trial this week on one count of first-degree sexual assault of a child. The charge stemmed from allegations made by a young woman who told Omaha police that when she was 7 or 8 years old during the summer of 1998 or 1999, she was raped by a man who took her to the pool at Hitchcock Park near 45th and O Streets. She said he took her back to his home and sexually assaulted her with his fingers and penis.
The man who assaulted her was known in South Omaha neighborhoods as “the bicycle guy” who would fix anyone’s bike. That man was Pierce, authorities allege.
The girl apparently suppressed the memory until 2005, when she recalled the attack in counseling. She reported it to Omaha police, who put out a notice to local law enforcement in order to find the man and speak with him.
That didn’t happen until December, when Pierce showed up at Nebraska Medicine-Bellevue to get treatment for a back injury.
After follow-up interviews with the now-28-year-old woman, her family, Pierce’s foster family and current and former residents of the home where the woman says the assault occurred, police issued a warrant for Pierce’s arrest in April. He was arrested last month in Indiana.
Omaha police say Pierce moved a lot, including to Colorado, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri. Since news of Pierce’s arrest surfaced, police said, two people from Harrison County, Iowa, have contacted authorities to say they were sexually assaulted by Pierce in 2004, when they were about 6 to 8 years old.
Police say others may have been victimized and want people to call the Omaha Police Department’s child victim/sexual assault unit at 402-444-5636 with any information.
The incidents, police said, may have occurred as far back as the 1990s. They distributed a photo of Pierce from 2005 to assist with identification.
Pierce has faced previous charges of sexual assault of a juvenile — one in 1981 in Minnesota and another in 1983 in Omaha, police have said.
Pierce is being held on $150,000 bail. If convicted, he faces up to 50 years in prison.
After Pierce’s hearing this week, the woman said in a Facebook message that what happened to her still affects her.
“There was a time in my youth I was unable to sleep, had nightmares and lashed out at those around me because of what he did to me,” she wrote. “I’m a 28yr old with a family now and have faced my demons.
“I was extremely surprised when the detective called me in January because I figured when I reported it in 2005 no one believed me ...” the woman wrote. “I’m anxious to see what unfolds from here but I know that regardless of what happens he will have to answer to a higher God.”