Serial Rape Suspect's Trail Of Clues Leads to Violent End

Mark Humphries, in a Maryland driver's license photograph.
Mark Humphries, in a Maryland driver's license photograph. (Maryland State Driver's License - Maryland State Driver's License)
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By Aaron C. Davis
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 28, 2008

Maj. Daniel Dusseau's head throbbed. It was 9 p.m. and nine months into the pursuit of a rapist whose attacks had haunted nearly a dozen of his detectives, sergeants and lieutenants. Only they and nine female victims knew all of the sadistic signatures of the serial rapist the police had been chasing: green rubber gloves, a ski mask, a digital camera and a .22-caliber handgun.

They knew that he had raped women for hours at gunpoint across Prince George's County, snapping pictures and threatening them with death. They knew that he had found them all, professional escorts, through online ads, all but one on Craigslist. They believed that his name was Mark Humphries and that he was so bold he would never stop until he was caught. They also knew that an arrest wouldn't come easily. He had proved so cautious that he left almost no evidence with each attack.

Last week, a day after Humphries killed himself as police waited at the door of a Hyattsville apartment, Dusseau and his team reflected on their lengthy probe and the moment they felt sure they were chasing the right man.

It was dark on the night of May 28. Dusseau, Prince George's head of major crimes, flipped off the lights to his office and walked outside. From the empty parking lot, a solitary figure approached.

"Sir, can I help you?" Dusseau asked. "There's nobody here. Are you here to see a detective?"

"Ya, I'm not sure, I think I'm being followed or harassed" by the police, the man replied. As he moved out of the shadows, Dusseau quickly realized that he was standing face to face with the suspected rapist he had seen only in mug shots.

"My instinct was to arrest him right there, but I knew we didn't have enough evidence yet," Dusseau recalled. "So, I did the only thing I could. I started to talk to him, calmly as I could. I couldn't let him know that we were on to him."

County detectives now consider the encounter the most audacious of several attempts by Humphries to conduct countersurveillance on police during a tricky cat-and-mouse game. "He was trying to figure out what we knew," Dusseau said.

Dusseau attempted to calm the man by complimenting his flashy ride -- the truck with oversize rims and a clown face painted on the hood -- which he had parked in a handicapped spot in front of the police station. Dusseau ended the encounter a half-hour later, promising to look into his complaints.

"Can I take your name?" Dusseau asked. "Humphries, Mark Humphries," the man replied in a cocky manner that Dusseau said became seared in his mind.

They exchanged numbers and a handshake. As Humphries left, Dusseau returned to the police station, where a detective rushed to swab his palm and fingers for Humphries's DNA. The phone number Humphries left would prove the more important clue in solving the string of rapes that had baffled police.

The crimes are among the most grievous ever associated with the online classifieds site Craigslist. Jim Buckmaster, chief executive of Craigslist, would not discuss specifics of the case but said the company would consider additional warnings on its erotic services section and was open to posting messages recommended by law enforcement.

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