Serial rapist suspected in Prince William Halloween assaults
Thursday, December 17, 2009
A masked man who raped two Prince William County teenagers as they returned home from trick-or-treating Halloween night has been linked to a string of sexual assaults along the East Coast that span more than a decade.
The serial rapist had been idle for nearly three years and hadn't struck in the Washington region since 2001, investigators said, ramping up concern that there would be more attacks.
Police said the suspect's DNA has been found at 13 crime scenes in four states. In addition to the Halloween assaults, he has attacked four women in Fairfax County, one in Leesburg and seven in Prince George's County, officers said. Some of the crimes had more than one victim.
He also raped a woman in Connecticut and was spotted peeping through a sliding glass door in Rhode Island.
Police officials in Prince William, Fairfax, Leesburg and Prince George's pleaded Wednesday for the public's help in identifying the man. Although officials have known his genetic fingerprint for at least seven years, efforts to attach a name have hit dead ends.
Now authorities think he is back in the Washington area. The attacks in the region started in February 1997. Armed with a gun, the man raped a 25-year-old woman walking along Marlboro Pike in Forestville.
"This violent offender is now back," said Fairfax Police Chief David M. Rohrer. "We are asking the public to think and look at people they know, whether it is a loved one, a friend, a family member."
The descriptions that victims have provided of their attacker are vague: black male, medium build, in his 30s or 40s. The man was often masked or wore a hoodie, and many of the assaults occurred in the dark. Officers have not released a sketch of the suspect because they haven't been able to produce one they think is reliable.
The victims range in age from 14 to 41 and are of different races. The rapist has used a gun, a knife and a screwdriver to overpower his victims. He has broken into homes and approached women on the street. In some cases, he has seemed innocent at first, striking up a conversation before pulling out a weapon.
The man might not appear sinister or even suspicious, police said. "People who may know the offender may not think he could do such a crime, that he may not be capable," said Prince William Police Chief Charlie T. Deane.
Police officials said the rapist's travels could provide the best hope of finding him. They said they think the man lived in or is familiar with the areas where he has trolled for victims. They think he might have grown up in Prince George's, where the rapes started in 1997, because the attacker rode a bicycle and might have been close to his home.
There have been two gaps in the attacks, during which police speculate that the man might have been in jail or traveling. On Dec. 28, 2001, the man, armed with a knife, raped a 29-year-old woman who was waiting for a bus in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County. The next time he showed up was five years later, peering through a sliding glass door at a woman and two 11-year-olds in Cranston, R.I.