WALTERBORO -- A 62-year-old woman walking to visit her husband in a nursing home Sunday morning was dragged into the woods and raped about 8 a.m., police said.

The reported assault happened near Sweat and Witsell streets, near the Heritage Healthcare nursing home. The area is a residential neighborhood a block behind Jeffries Boulevard, a major commercial area in downtown Walterboro.

Walterboro has been plagued with gang violence and drug deals gone bad in the last several months. This crime, though, shocked nearby residents and left them on their guard.

"I've never heard of that happening before," said Horace Garrett, who has lived for more than 30 years in a neat house on the corner near where the woman was grabbed. "Eight o'clock on a Sunday morning? He (the criminal) ought to have been getting ready to go to church."

The assailant struck the woman several times and ripped off her clothes, according to a source who was on the scene. After the assault, she fled to a nearby house to call for help. Police later recovered her clothes, although it was not clear Sunday exactly where they were found.

Walterboro Police Maj. Ken Dasen said he did not have access to the incident report Sunday but confirmed the source's account of the incident. He said he would not be able to release a description of the assailant until today, since that was in the incident report.

Residents were wary Sunday evening at Lincoln Apartments across Witsell Street from the nursing home.

"That's why you see all these mothers out here with the children today," said a woman who declined to identify herself. "It is shocking. The police need to get out here and do their job."

A group of teens at the apartments were horrified that anybody would rape a 62-year-old woman walking down the street on a Sunday morning.

"Nothing like that has ever happened before," one young man said.

The staff at the nursing home were aware of the crime but declined to talk about it. One staff member said the husband of the woman who was assaulted visited her in the hospital Sunday afternoon.

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553 or dmunday@post Andy Paras contributed to this story.