A Circle K clerk feared for her life and would have been raped Tuesday if two delivery men hadn't pulled the suspect off of the woman, according to testimony Wednesday in Columbus Recorder's Court.
Joshua Lias, 27, of Columbus pleaded not guilty to one count of criminal attempt to commit rape and false imprisonment in the 4:30 a.m. incident at 2233 Fort Benning Road.
With two employees by her side, the clerk said she confronted Lias about loitering inside the store and panhandling from customers before she was grabbed.
"I never had a chance to finish my statement before he grabbed me," the clerk testified.
Columbus police officer Ken Hardison said the victim was taken into the restroom where her pants were pulled down to her knees. The suspect then allegedly got on top of the clerk. Tony Keller and Nicholas Maughon, delivery employees from The McLane Company, grabbed the suspect and held him until police arrived.
The delivery employees are from Panama City, Fla., and Dothan, Ala., but weren't in court for the hearing. A second female employee was in the store at the time of the assault attempt.
Hardison said a review of the surveillance video inside the store shows two delivery men pulling Lias from the woman.
In a statement to police, Hardison testified the suspect said the woman spit at him but she denied that occurred.
"He was trying to kiss me in the mouth," the clerk said. "It was just devastating."
Matt Brown, an assistant district attorney, asked the clerk if Lias has been to the store before the incident. The clerk said he frequently stands outside panhandling.
"We've never seen him like that," she said.
Judge Julius Hunter ordered Lias held without bond on the charges and bound the case over to Superior Court.
If Lias is able to secure a bond, Brown said he must stay away from Circle K.
Steve Craft, chief assistant public defender who represented Lias, asked the judge to get an assessment of Lias from the county physician. Hunter agreed.