Suspect charged in sex assault inside mall store

A registered sex offender was arrested and charged Friday in the sexual assault of a woman who was dragged into a store dressing room at Maui Mall, then punched and choked when she tried to escape, police said.

Wailuku patrol officers went to the Kahului mall in response to a 1 p.m. report. Police said the 33-year-old woman was dragged into the dressing room by a man she didn’t know. He forcibly removed her clothing and sexually assaulted her.

When she tried to escape, the man restrained her while punching and choking her, police said. The woman screamed, alerting others, and the man ran.

Off-duty police officer Loren Natividad, who was in the area, helped detain the suspect outside the store, police said.

The suspect was identified as Charles Cowan, 43, who had no local address. He was being held at the Wailuku Police Station in lieu of $100,000 bail after being charged with first-degree sexual assault and kidnapping.

The woman was taken by ambulance to Maui Memorial Medical Center, where she was treated and released, police said. Her injuries included lacerations and abrasions to her mouth, a laceration to her left foot and redness and scratches to her upper chest and neck.

Police said the suspect had been at the Wailuku Police Station to register as a sex offender Friday morning.