Suspect in East Coast Rapist case held on $1.5M bail

MULTIMEDIA GRAPHIC
A comprehensive profile of the rapist and his methods, relying on interviews with law enforcement officials, victims, and experts, as well as visits to each of the man's 17 known and suspected crime scenes along the East Coast.

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By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN and MATTHEW BARAKAT
The Associated Press
Monday, March 7, 2011; 4:48 PM

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- A man who lived a Jekyll-and-Hyde lifestyle as he sexually assaulted women from Virginia to Rhode Island over 12 years asked, "Why haven't you picked me up sooner?" when he was arrested last week, a prosecutor said Monday in court.

Aaron Thomas, 39, wore sunglasses and a baseball cap as he appeared in New Haven Superior Court in Connecticut on a charge of raping a woman in 2007 in her New Haven home in front of her baby. He kept his head cast down throughout the hearing.

Prosecutor David Strollo said the unemployed truck driver described himself as having "a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" personality regarding women.

Over the weekend, investigators searched a yellow Colonial with blue shutters where neighbors said he lived with his girlfriend and 5-year-old son.

Strollo said Thomas made incriminating statements about his involvement in numerous rapes to a marshal. In addition to asking "Why haven't you picked me up sooner?" Thomas told investigators, "What took you so long to get me?" Strollo said.

Authorities say DNA from a cigarette butt confirms Thomas is the so-called East Coast Rapist wanted for attacks in Connecticut, Maryland, Rhode Island and Virginia. Thomas had lived previously in Maryland and Virginia, according to public records.

Investigators say there are 12 attacks with 17 victims, including 14 sexual assaults, two abductions where victims either escaped or were not assaulted, and one peeping offense where DNA was found.

Authorities recently put up electronic billboards in the states where the attacks occurred and neighboring states. Police and prosecutors at a news conference Monday in Manassas, Va., credited Thomas' arrest to a detailed, anonymous tip from Prince George's County, Md., that was generated from the publicity campaign combined with a relatively new, highly detailed police database.

Authorities in Virginia's Prince William County, where the news conference was held, are charging him with rape, abduction, being a fugitive and using of a firearm while committing a felony.

Thomas has not been charged in Maryland or Rhode Island.

Courtroom spectators gasped as Strollo described the cases, which include the 2007 New Haven case and the rape of two teenage trick-or-treaters in 2009 in Woodbridge, Va.

Thomas' public defender, Joe Lopez, said he tried to waive his client's appearance at the court hearing, which a judge denied. Lopez declined to comment afterward. Bail was set at $1.5 million.


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