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Alert Issued for Sexual Predator in 31 Attacks

Long Beach police urge caution and ask the public to report anything unusual no matter how minor it might seem.

November 09, 2002|Nancy Wride | Times Staff Writer

The sexual predator who for six years has assaulted women in Seattle, Huntington Beach, Los Alamitos and Long Beach is now linked to 31 attacks, police said Friday, urging the public to report neighborhood disruptions as minute as a barking dog.

"We know he's somehow identifying his victims ahead and planning his ingress and egress to their house," said Linda Beardslee of the Long Beach Police Department, who is leading a task force of agencies investigating the assaults. "We believe he goes between yards, in their backyard, alleys, across neighboring properties. He moves around outside a lot."

A $50,000 reward leading to the conviction of the serial attacker, known as the Belmont Shore rapist until he committed assaults elsewhere, was announced at a news conference at the Long Beach Police Department. That city has had the greatest number of the known attacks and contributed $25,000 to the reward. Los Angeles County and Los Alamitos contributed $10,000 each, and Huntington Beach contributed $5,000.

The task force of police agencies, assisted by the FBI, is working to find the intruder, whose methods and behavior, police said, connect him to the 31 sexual assaults dating to 1996 in Seattle. At least 13 have been linked by physical evidence, including DNA, and he has also left fingerprints at crime scenes.

The predator has entered women's homes through unlocked windows or doors, sometimes in the nude and always wearing a mask or face shield before he confronts victims, or covers their faces.

But Long Beach Police Chief Anthony W. Batts said Friday that the man previously noted for being methodical has been making mistakes that the public might notice. The man has unscrewed or broken porch and motion detector lights at the homes of victims or their neighbors. He has also been marked by some women during struggles, including face scratches in August and a hand or finger injury during a Thursday morning attack in Long Beach.

And his absence or inactivity for periods of up to 18 months between assaults -- June 2000 to December 2001 -- may help the public connect someone they know to those times.

"This person is out there and amongst us, but maybe he was in jail for a while, maybe his job has taken him out of state," Beardslee said.

Information or tips may be left, anonymously if deemed necessary, on a taped task force hotline: (866) 600-1110.

Because his victims haven't been able to see him well, their physical descriptions have varied wildly: He is 5-6 to 6 feet tall. He is thin with a swimmer's build. He's pudgy. He has a buzz cut. He has dreadlocks.

Police said the man may have worn wigs or altered his appearance in the attacks, which date to May 1996 in Seattle. The first attack in Long Beach linked by DNA occurred Jan. 17, 1997, at 12 a.m., when a 40-year-old woman was attacked in east Long Beach.

The one clue the predator has left behind is DNA, which has connected him to attacks but will mostly be useful after a suspect is in custodyt.

DNA can sometimes reveal age, race and other indicators, but police on Friday would say only that their suspect is male and possibly in his 20s to mid-30s.

Details that may seem innocuous or insignificant out of context might prove critical, Batts said. "There is no such thing as the perfect crime," he added.

And so police beseeched the public to look out, day or night, for people who don't seem to belong to a neighborhood, or who are simply unfamiliar, to watch for changes they are certain they did not make: removed screens, windows nudged open, gates left ajar, extended dog barking or tripped motion detector lights.

Most important, the public was asked to take care, keep all doors and windows locked and to forget assumptions about who looks like a dangerous person.

"I know this person could ... be walking among us, someone we may know," said Long Beach Mayor Beverly O'Neill, "so it's important for all of us to be very aware of what goes on around us."

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