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Copy of Spring Lake man accused of sexually assaulting a child

Posted August 30, 2014

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— Investigators in Spring Lake are searching for a registered sex offender who allegedly posed as a police officer, then sexually assaulted an 11-year-old girl.

Authorities said Nathan Lynn Cooley, 28, of 1317 Verlie Drive, approached the child Tuesday afternoon on Odell Road. Cooley was in a vehicle and the girl was walking to a library from school, police said.

"Cooley told the victim he was a police officer and needed her help finding his dog," police said in a statement.

After luring the girl into his vehicle, Cooley drove to a wooded area and sexually assaulted the child, police said. After the child started crying and asking for her mother, Cooley dropped her off at the public library on Laketree Boulevard, police said.

The girl went home and told her mother, who contacted authorities.

The child was able to provide police with a detailed description of Cooley because she had seen him before, Spring Lake Police Chief Troy A. McDuffie said.

"Emotionally, certainly she's not doing too well, but physically, she's OK," McDuffie said.

The crime surprised neighbors like Nancy Serra, who lives across the street from the library.

"I see little girls walking all the time to the library, and it worries me to death to know that something like that would happen right across the street from my neighbors, my home, my grandkids, my kids," she said.

Cooley was convicted of attempted rape of a 13-year-old in Currituck County in 2005, and served three years in prison and received two years' probation. In 2011, hewas convicted of indecent liberties with a 15-year-old in Dare County and received five years' probation.

Cooley is listed as a recidivist on the state's sex offender registry.

He is described as 5 feet 11 inches tall, weighs about 260 pounds with blue eyes and a bald head. He was last seen operating a beige or gold Mitsubishi Galant with a Virginia license plate.

Anyone with information regarding Cooley’s whereabouts is asked to contact Spring Lake police at 910-436-0350 or CrimeStoppers at 910-483-TIPS.

"With the start of the new school year, Chief McDuffie also wishes to caution all parents to speak with their children about not talking to or getting into vehicles with strangers," the police department said in a statement.

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