Man arrested after allegedly dragging woman to alley off I35 and raping her

A man is behind bars after police say he dragged a woman behind an alley off I-35 North, held a knife to her neck and sexually assaulted her. Stores in the area say they've noticed an increase in crime over the past year but never expected something like this to happen.

I-35 and Hwy 290 is a busy intersection and that's where a woman had to fight for her life Sunday night. Now nearby stores are asking for more police presence.  

"They need to patrol the area a lot more," says Reggie Harris, manager, Complete Culture.

The woman was walking when APD says 36-year-old Thomas Merritt approached her yelling. He then reportedly put her in a choke hold with a knife and dragged her to an alley behind the Texas Land and Cattle Steakhouse.

At that point, police say Merritt sexually assaulted the woman and was violent with her, even punching her in the face. It all came to an end when a car drove by. The victim was able to get away and call for help.

Harris says those in the area have noticed crime increase over the past year, from theft to break-ins.

"Someone came in and stole all of our hover-boards and a couple of laptops and stuff like that. I don't know if they ever found out who did it," says Harris.

That's why Harris says they've added surveillance cameras and a security guard to Complete Culture but he says it's still not a good idea to walk the area alone at night.

"You get a lot of people coming through, you know, begging for change and stuff like that. You get a lot of homeless come through also," says Harris.

Harris says he's glad the suspect in this case is off the streets.

Merritt has a laundry-list of arrests: several theft charges, burglary of a habitation and public intoxication three or more. Now he's charged with aggravated sexual assault - a first degree felony.