Fugitive Child Rapist Caught
Friday, April 13, 2007
David E. Fuster, a former Bethesda dentist who fled Montgomery County in 2003 after being convicted of raping a 15-year-old patient whom he drugged with laughing gas, was arrested this week on a beach in Mexico, authorities said yesterday.
The dentist, a Peruvian citizen who was Montgomery's second-most-wanted fugitive, did not resist when Mexican police officials working with U.S. law enforcement officers approached him on the beach near Mérida, not far from Cancun.
"We were following several leads for several months," said Montgomery Sheriff Raymond M. Kight. "They all pointed to Mexico. "
Fuster was with his wife, Roxana, and their five children when he was taken into custody Wednesday afternoon. He had been living in a walled-off ranchlike compound in Mérida.
Montgomery and federal law enforcement officials spent years tracking leads about Fuster's whereabouts in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Peru.
The latest tip came in about six weeks ago. At the request of Maryland officials, U.S. law enforcement agents in Mexico City traveled to Mérida and conducted surveillance on his home, officials said. After determining his identity, U.S. officials in Mexico obtained a warrant from a local judge.
"As they were watching the place, they started seeing Fuster come out of the residence and drive his children to school and then pick them up," Chief Deputy Sheriff Darren Popkin said. "We feel that he has gotten comfortable with where he was."
Fuster, who was not incarcerated in Maryland for any significant period, is being held at a Mexican penitentiary, Popkin said. Extradition to the United States could take several months, and he is expected to remain in custody until then.
Fuster, 51, did not appear to be working in Mexico, and authorities said it is unclear whether any of his relatives, many of whom still live in Montgomery, knew of his whereabouts.
Fuster was convicted May 7, 2003, of second-degree rape, assault, child abuse and sex offense and was let out of jail on a $100,000 property bond. He was not taken into custody after the conviction because his attorneys struck a deal with prosecutors that allowed him to remain free on bond until sentencing, which was scheduled for the next month.
Shortly after the conviction, he told his attorneys that he was going to Florida on vacation. He appears to have fled the country shortly afterward.
"I think he was truly stunned by the verdict," one of his defense attorneys, Laura Kelsey Rhodes, said yesterday. "We were all disappointed, and I think as a result he panicked."
The county considered him its No. 2 fugitive after former Foreign Service officer William Bradford Bishop Jr., who is charged in the March 1976 slaying of his wife, mother and three sons.
Fuster, who had a successful practice in the 8300 block of Old Georgetown Road, used nitrous oxide, a chemical agent used in surgery and dentistry as an anesthetic. He gave the gas to the 15-year-old patient Oct. 10, 2001, according to police, explaining that it "would assist in the cleaning of her teeth because it could be painful."
After drugging her, Fuster took her to a downstairs room, where he fondled and raped her on a couch.
The teenager told police that she faded in and out of consciousness during the rape. At one point, police said, Fuster told her, "Don't worry, I'm wearing a condom."
Afterward, he took the girl to the Chipotle restaurant on Rockville Pike, where the two ate, and later dropped her off at a Metro station.
Prosecutors filed more charges against the dentist after five other female patients told police that Fuster had drugged and fondled them. None of the others said they were raped.
He faces up to 55 years in the rape case.
The father of one of the other patients said that his daughter has left the country and that he has no interest in pursuing the case. The Washington Post does not identify the victims of sex crimes.
The father said he was nonetheless pleased to hear that Fuster is in custody.
"Any victim would be happy," he said. "I'm sorry for his family, his kids."
Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.