The alleged East Coast Rapist on Wednesday had his first hearing in Prince William County court, where he faces charges for a 2009 attack on three teenage girls.
Police have linked Aaron H. Thomas, 40, to a series of rapes and other attacks on women that began in Maryland in the late 1990s and continued in Virginia, Connecticut and Rhode Island over more than a decade.
Thomas faces several charges, including two rape counts, in Prince William, where he allegedly attacked three trick-or-treaters on Halloween 2009. It is the latest known attack linked to the East Coast rapist.
“It’s hard to have a scenario more heinous than this,” Prince William Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert said after the hearing.
Thomas, who appeared by video feed from the Prince William County jail, looked at the floor during much of the brief hearing in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. When asked by Judge D. Scott Bailey whether he understood the charges, Aaron mumbled “no.” He then asked for an attorney.
Bailey appointed Manassas attorney Ron Fahy to represent Thomas. A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for Jan. 25.
Thomas has ties to Virginia and Maryland: He attended a Prince George’s high school and regularly visited his mother in Clarke County, Va., authorities said. He also worked as a long-haul trucker, which police said could have put him near attacks along the Interstate 95 corridor.
Police had been looking for a suspect for more than a decade, but the hunt took on new urgency after the Prince William attacks.
In the spring, media attention and an FBI public-awareness campaign, which included posting sketches of the attacker on billboards, led to a tip from an acquaintance of Thomas’s.
Thomas was arrested in Connecticut in March after police collected his DNA from a discarded cigarette butt. A judge there agreed to send Thomas to Prince William to face charges.