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Posted at 04:26 PM ET, 03/11/2011

First photos of alleged East Coast Rapist


Aaron Thomas in 2001, left, and 2011. (Photos courtesy of police officials)
Two law enforcement photographs of the suspect in the East Coast Rapist case were released on Thursday, and the images taken 10 years apart show how the man has aged and changed since some of the early attacks in the Washington area.

Both images, obtained by The Washington Post, are mug shots of Aaron H. Thomas, of New Haven, Conn., who was arrested last week after a 14-year hunt for a mysterious rapist who attacked women in at least four states. Twelve rapes and other attacks were linked by DNA to a single man, and police have said Thomas's DNA was a match.

The most recent photo is from the Connecticut Department of Correction, where Thomas is being held on $1.5 million bond on charges connected to a rape in New Haven in 2007 and an attack on three teenage girls in Prince William County on Halloween 2009. Police arrested Thomas on Friday after they watched him, collected a discarded cigarette butt, and had the DNA on the cigarette analyzed in a matter of hours.

Though photographers and courtroom sketch artists had gotten pictures of Thomas from the side, the Department of Corrections intake photo is the first full view of Thomas's face since his arrest. Police in New Haven had not released Thomas's arrest photo in the week since his capture, citing investigative reasons, an unusually long time to keep an arrested suspect's image from public view.

The second photograph, which police in Prince William County took in June 2001, shows Thomas at 29 years old and at the heart of the series of attacks. He is heavier, his face is rounder, and he has far more hair, a look that is much closer to the composite sketches that victims helped police create at the time.

Detectives and prosecutors hope that people will look at the photographs and come forward with information about Thomas or other unreported attacks that could be linked to him. People who would like to contact police about the case can do so at www.eastcoastrapist.com.

In June 2001, Thomas was arrested for domestic assault and battery on a woman he lived with in Dale City. Prince William County court documents show that the woman said Thomas grabbed her by the throat and pushed her into a bathroom, breaking a window. Thomas told police at the time that he "did not grab her but they were wrestling."

The Dale City address is about two miles from where the Halloween 2009 attack happened.

The woman, whom the Post is not identifying because she was the victim of a crime, had shared an address with Thomas along Route 1 in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County, very close to the rapes that occurred there at about that time.

Particularly noteworthy about the June 2001 assault arrest was that it came just weeks after the East Coast Rapist attacked a Leesburg woman in her empty apartment as she was moving out, threatening her with a screwdriver and disappearing with all of her clothes. That attack was not far from where Thomas has family in Clarke County, Va.

Detectives had long believed that the East Coast Rapist had ties to the areas where the attacks occurred and knew the areas well, as he seemed to know where to take his victims to attack them and how to escape quickly and without notice. They also said he likely would have a criminal record.

Police said they were surprised by Thomas's demeanor when they interrogated him, finding him meek, passive, talkative and less physically imposing than they had expected.

In the 2001 arrest documents, Thomas is listed as being 25 pounds heavier than he is now, and the photographs show clear differences in his physical appearance 10 years apart.

Staff writer Jennifer Buske and researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

By and  |  04:26 PM ET, 03/11/2011

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