What to Know
- A man faces multiple charges in the sex attack of a young woman who was ambushed in her suburban New Jersey home, prosecutors said
- Muhammed Sharif, 40, of Irvington, was charged with aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault and burglary in the Oct. 16 attack
- No one was in custody for days following the attack, putting the tight-knit community on edge
The alleged sexual predator accused of ambushing a young woman in her suburban New Jersey home earlier this month pleaded not guilty to a slate of charges including aggravated sexual assault on Tuesday.
Muhammad Sharif, a 40-year-old man with nearly two dozen arrests and two prior felony convictions, was ordered held in jail until trial in the Tuesday, Oct. 16 attack on the 24-year-old woman in Maplewood. Investigators believe the Irvington man followed her home after a late-morning encounter at a business area in the town, then forced his way inside and attacked her in the kitchen.
Assistant prosecutor Deborah Freier described the victim in court as developmentally delayed and said she lived with her parents; it wasn't clear if they were home at the time Sharif allegedly forced his way in.
Multiple surveillance videos show Sharif in a reflective vest walking toward the victim's house and running away from the house right after the time she called 911, prosecutors say. They also have video of him getting on a bus and getting off a bus, walking into his apartment building in Irvington wearing the same clothes the victim reported her attacker had been wearing, prosecutors say.
Sharif's mother positively identified him as the man seen in those surveillance videos, officials said. A search warrant recovered the clothing he allegedly wore at the time of the attack, along with two reflective vests.
No one was in custody for days following the attack, putting the tight-knit community on edge. Prosecutors described Sharif as a danger to society, citing his two felony convictions in the last 10 years, one of which was for aggravated assault. He also has numerous misdemeanors and was on probation at the time of his arrest, officials said.
Sharif's attorney didn't directly address the allegations to reporters, but said in court his client should be allowed to wear an ankle bracelet rather than be confined to a cell until trial. A judge denied that request.
Given his history, Sharif faces up to a life sentence if convicted in this case.