Woman Assaulted in Falls Church

By Elissa Silverman and Clarence Williams
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, February 7, 2008

A man was arrested in an assault on a woman in Falls Church last night, and Fairfax County police said they consider him a suspect in a string of recent assaults in the county.

In all, law enforcement authorities from three jurisdictions are investigating whether the man might be connected to 11 similar attacks on women in Northern Virginia over the past few months.

"He is considered a suspect in the series of sexual assaults," said Officer Don Gotthardt, a Fairfax police spokesman. "We don't want to shut out the possibility that there might be more than one man."

Falls Church police made the arrest in the 600 block of Hillwood Avenue about 7:30. Fairfax police officers, who were performing surveillance on the man, said they saw him attack a woman and drag her into the woods. The county officers intervened and called Falls Church police, Gotthardt said.

Fairfax police said the suspect is 40 but had no other details. He was charged with abduction with intent to defile and sexual battery, said Nicole Gobbo, a spokeswoman for the City of Falls Church.

Falls Church police are working with police departments in Fairfax and Alexandria, where the other incidents occurred, to determine whether there is a connection among all the cases.

"It's too early in the investigation to know," Gobbo said.

Fairfax detectives followed a black sport-utility vehicle and watched the man park, get out and attack the woman from behind, Gotthardt said. It was unclear how long detectives had him under surveillance.

On Tuesday night, a woman walking in the Falls Church area of Fairfax County was assaulted and sexually molested by a masked man, considered possibly the 11th in the series of attacks.

The 29-year-old woman was talking on her cellphone while walking along Lee Highway near George Mason Road when a man grabbed her about 7:45, Officer Eddy J. Azcarate said. The man touched the woman inappropriately and then fled, which is what occurred in several of the other attacks. The woman was not injured.

Seven such assaults have been reported in eastern Fairfax and four in Alexandria.

Staff writer Tom Jackman contributed to this report.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company