After 13 years, police still hunting for the East Coast Rapist
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
He lurks at gas stations and pay phones and bus stops, blending in so well that people don't notice him at first. He has a smooth, deep voice. He is black, he smokes and he is right-handed. He is in his early to mid-30s, is fit, stands about 6 feet tall, likes wearing camouflage clothes and black hats, and once had a badly chipped tooth.
The man studies women carefully. He watches them leave for work and walk home from the mall, and he notices whether they lock their windows and doors. He knows when they are most vulnerable and when they are home alone with their children. He stalks them in neighborhoods he knows well.
Then he rapes them and vanishes.
He is the East Coast Rapist. And police know so much about this man. They even have his DNA. But when it comes right down to it, he is a frustrating mystery. No one has been able to find him.
His attacks have spanned 13 years, beginning in Prince George's County in the late 1990s, moving into Virginia and then up to New England.
Now he has been back to Northern Virginia. The most recent rapes were on Halloween in Dale City, when he forced three trick-or-treating teenage girls into a wooded ravine at gunpoint. That was the closest police have come to finding him. And the attacks showed them that he's brasher than ever.
"He is a very bold, fearless predator," said Sgt. Kim Chinn, a Prince William County police spokeswoman. "The concern is that he's out there, he's not going to stop until he's caught and the violence could get worse."
"He's like a lion looking for prey," said one of his victims, a woman who was raped in her Leesburg apartment in 2001.
Police detectives and five of the rapist's victims cooperated with the reporting of this article with the same goal in mind: They want to identify and catch him before he attacks again. The Washington Post generally does not name victims of sex crimes and is not identifying any of the victims in this article. Some of them, parents themselves, said they were willing to discuss their attacks because the man raped teenagers.
"Somebody's going to know who's been in Prince George's, who's been in Fairfax, who went to Connecticut," said Lt. Bruce Guth, who leads Fairfax County's cold-case squad. "The bastard's right there. We just need that one phone call. Somebody knows this guy."
Police in Maryland, Virginia, Connecticut and Rhode Island have been hunting the rapist for more than a decade, but the Halloween attacks added urgency to their search. A trail of DNA links him to the rapes of at least 12 women, and police suspect him in a total of 17 attacks. Detectives think there might be more.
Experts say the rapist is probably in a continual search for his next victim. Police think he lives in, works in or is very familiar with the areas he prowls. He scopes out locations to intercept women, secluded sites in the midst of busy neighborhoods and ways to escape. He grabs women who are in their comfort zones, near or in their own homes.