Montgomery County police have used DNA evidence to link at least nine rapes in the county between 1987 and 1991 to a man recently charged with rape in New York City, police said yesterday.
The identity of the so-called Silver Spring rapist, who police say terrorized the Kensington, Bethesda and Silver Spring areas with at least 21 sexual assaults, remained a mystery for more than a decade.
Clarence Williams, shown in 1973, is being held in two New York assaults.
All 21 of the assaults shared several traits. The rapist entered his victim's home after midnight through an unlocked door or window. In all but one case, the victim was the only adult at home. The rapist wore a ski mask during the attack and left a black leather driving glove at the home of one of his victims, according to news reports from the time.
The victims, all women, ranged in age from 23 to 61.
A massive police manhunt failed to turn up a suspect, and the case appeared to have gone cold by the mid-1990s.
Then this spring, New York law enforcement authorities submitted a DNA profile from Clarence Williams, 58, into the federal DNA database. The profile matched DNA from the Montgomery rapes as well as two sexual assaults in Morris County, N.J., said Barbara Thompson, a spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney.
Williams, who was living in Georgia when arrested, probably will be charged by Montgomery officials in coming weeks, authorities said. New York prosecutors have charged him with rape, robbery, assault and other crimes in connection with a 1973 rape in Manhattan and a 1974 attempted rape in Queens, Thompson said.
Williams, who most recently was using the name Omar Abdul Hakeem, fled in 1978 while out on bail and evaded authorities until last year, when he tried to buy a shotgun in DeKalb County, Ga., Thompson said.
A routine background check revealed that Williams was wanted in New York. He was extradited last fall.
Investigators retrieved evidence from the 1973 rape from storage and sent underwear taken from the victim to forensic specialists. They were able to obtain a DNA sample from the garment, and it matched Williams's DNA.
A DNA profile was sent to the federal DNA database, where police say it matched profiles from the Montgomery rapes.
In 1992, Montgomery investigators announced that they had determined based on DNA samples that at least nine of the 21 sexual assaults attributed to the Silver Spring rapist were committed by the same person.
Investigators said they are confident that those nine cases can be definitively linked to Williams. Police said they are opening old case files to see whether DNA profiles can be obtained from evidence in the other rapes.
Montgomery State's Attorney Douglas F. Gansler said the rapes from 1987 to 1991 kindled widespread fear and uncertainty.
"People in the Silver Spring community lived in fear each and every night when they went to sleep, not knowing who was the person responsible," Gansler said. "These were crimes that were very rare in Montgomery County, in the sense that they were believed to be stranger-on-stranger rapes of the serial variety."