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Suspected Rapist Was Convicted of Similar Crime

The man arrested on suspicion of 31 assaults pleaded guilty to false imprisonment of a Long Beach woman more than a decade ago.

November 13, 2002|Nancy Wride | Times Staff Writer

The man who authorities believe is the so-called Belmont Shore serial rapist responsible for attacking 31 women pleaded guilty 13 years ago to a bizarre crime at a Long Beach woman's home that eerily foreshadows the cases for which he is expected to be charged today.

Mark Wayne Rathbun, 32, of Long Beach was arrested on suspicion of rape and burglary Sunday in connection with 31 sexual assaults on women in Seattle, Long Beach, Los Alamitos and Huntington Beach since 1996. Police said the suspect would often enter a victim's home while nude or clad only in underwear.

DNA evidence from a dozen of those attacks matched DNA obtained from Rathbun after the most recent attack in Long Beach last week, police said.

Had DNA testing been more sophisticated -- and had the collection of DNA samples from felony suspects been mandatory in 1989 -- "we might have caught this guy 30 attacks ago," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Richard Goul.

Rathbun, who lived with his mother in an Elm Avenue apartment about three miles from the Belmont Shore and Belmont Heights neighborhoods where many of the attacks occurred, was being held without bail in Long Beach City Jail.

Goul said Tuesday that it is not yet clear how Rathbun chose his victims, only that investigators suspect him of advance planning for the attacks in unlocked homes, given his apparent knowledge of each site and his ability to escape swiftly.

Although there was no indication of sexual assault, Rathbun's one felony conviction sheds some light on the man accused of a crime spree that for years frightened women in several cities.

Dressed only in underwear, according to police reports and court documents, Rathbun entered the open window of a woman's home on Grand Avenue at the edge of Belmont Shore about 2:30 a.m. July 28, 1989.

He had argued with his mother and decided to sleep in this backyard off an alley, he would later tell police. When he grew hungry, he entered the home. The woman said Rathbun, then 19, pounced on her and pinned her to the bed, ordered her not to scream, then said he would not hurt her and told her that he was just hungry. The woman gave him flour tortillas, Popsicles and frozen turkey.

Rathbun left, and officers searching the neighborhood found him in a yard on Vista Street, where he had stuffed his frozen food.

Rathbun pleaded guilty a month later to residential burglary and false imprisonment by using violence -- keeping the woman from leaving by holding her arm as he talked to her, Goul said.

Rathbun served 10 months in jail and was given three years' probation.

Long Beach Unified School District records show that Rathbun arrived in September 1984 from the Philippines and attended Rogers Middle School for a year before enrolling at Long Beach Polytechnic High School in September 1985.

He attended the downtown campus through June 1987 and then dropped out.

He completed his high school education through the district's adult school in 1988, district spokesman Dick Van Der Laan said.

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