Hotel guard sought after girl raped, thrown from balcony

Police believe officer at resort involved in attack on spring breaker


Mar. 18--PANAMA CITY BEACH -- A hotel security guard with a lengthy arrest record sexually assaulted a teenage spring breaker early Monday, then threw the girl from a sixth-floor balcony, according to Panama City Beach police.

The girl hit two lower roofs and landed in a second-floor stairwell, suffering serious, but non-life threatening injuries.

Investigators questioned 29-year-old Shawn Wuertley, a guard at Sandpiper Beacon Beach Resort, then released him without realizing he was wanted on an outstanding warrant from Indiana.

Monday afternoon, police were ready to charge Wuertley with attempted felony murder, sexual battery and false imprisonment, but could not find him. Wuertley called police to say he was leaving the state to visit family in Tennessee and would be back Wednesday.

"The indication was that he would talk to us then," said Maj. Dave Humphreys of the Panama City Beach Police Department. "The concern is that he's trying to get a couple days' head start."

Police said the attack happened about 1 a.m. at Sandpiper Beacon, where Wuertley was on duty. He apparently had taken a liking to an 18-year-old hotel guest from Tuscaloosa, Ala., police said.

Humphreys said Wuertley grabbed the girl, took her into an empty room and sexually assaulted her. Afterward, the two began to struggle and Wuertley pushed her over the balcony, he said.

The girl was taken to Bay Medical Center. Her condition was not available late Monday, but Humphreys said she had visible head and leg injuries.

He said police at the scene began to suspect that Wuertley might have been involved and took him to the police station, where they photographed and questioned him.

"There was not enough information at that point to charge him," Humphreys said.

He said investigators did not run a criminal history check on Wuertley until after he was released. That's when investigators discovered the Indiana arrest warrant on a burglary charge.

"We're certainly checking into why that wasn't done," Humphreys said. "It should have been done."

Indiana Department of Correction records show Wuertley has an extensive criminal history including convictions for burglary, escape, auto theft and receiving stolen property.

Panama City Beach police said he has been in this area, living with a girlfriend, for about six or seven months. But, it apparently is not his first visit. He was sentenced in Bay County in 1998 to probation on shoplifting and marijuana possession charges.

It is not clear how Wuertley got the job at Sandpiper Beacon. A hotel manager declined comment Monday.

But investigators who saw his job application said he lied in response to questions about previous convictions and claimed to have been a military policeman in the Army, with service in Afghanistan.

Various Internet profiles indicate he might have been married at one time to a woman in Indiana named Shelly -- he has that name tattooed on the side of his neck -- and has a son.

His Yahoo profile from 2006 shows his address as the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility in Indiana. On his MySpace page, he lists Winston Churchill and his grandfather among his heroes and asks: "Any good girls out there looking for their own bad boy?"

Humphreys said Wuertley had been driving his girlfriend's car and does not have one of his own. Investigators are not sure whether Wuertley has access to other transportation, so it is possible he still is in the area, Humphreys said.

Police are asking that anyone who sees Wuertley call the Beach Police Department at 233-5000.

"Obviously, he's dangerous to the community," Humphreys said.

Copyright (c) 2008, The News Herald, Panama City, Fla. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.