A Missouri man responsible for hugging 36 women and making them uncomfortable in the process could face charges of unwanted contact. The man has earned the nicknames "Jack the Gripper" and "John Wayne Embracey," but police have not released his name to the public.
He has targeted women in the Des Peres, Missouri area and would approach them, claiming to know them. He would then ask for a hug, using the excuse that it was his birthday, Detective Marshall Broughton told ABC News.
"He'd say, 'Hi, remember me? I lived down the street in the corner house. How ya been?' Obviously [the women] didn't remember him, but he did it so quickly and convincingly that they felt embarrassed that they didn't know him," the detective explained.
Police did bring in "Jack" for questioning but released him an hour later. The women who had filed complaints were able to identify him rather quickly, but police are uncertain how to proceed with the case. One possibility is to charge "Jack" with third-degree assault, though it is unclear whether hugging is actually against state law.
"This thing has caused more of a stir than anything else going on in this town," Broughton added.
Victims have described feeling uneasy after their encounter with "Jack" and one left a message on the Daily Riverfront Times' page describing her experience.
"All I could do was stand in shock after the hug was given becuz [sic] I had nothing else in mind as to what to do to get away from him. The man ur [sic] looking for has a more round face not skinny but not over weight hourly in his forties and a light shade of brown in hair color. Don't know if that helps but I hope someone catches him soon," the anonymous woman wrote.
The Warson Woods police department's Facebook page states, "Formal charges of 3rd degree assault are pending with the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney's office."