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DNA Shows One Man Committed 10 Valley Attacks

The sexual assaults occurred over two years, mostly in residential areas after dark.

June 12, 2003|Michael Krikorian | Times Staff Writer

Using DNA, police have linked at least 10 sexual assaults and rapes in the west San Fernando Valley over the last two years to one assailant, prompting authorities Wednesday to seek the public's help in apprehending him.

Dubbed the "Canoga Park rapist," the man strikes mostly in residential neighborhoods, in hours of darkness. His latest attack was June 5. Police said he threatens victims with a gun or knife. Authorities would not disclose the locations of the assaults -- five of which have been reported this year.

"The reason we are just finding out that this is a serial attacker is because his method of attacks have had very little similarities," said Los Angeles Police Deputy Chief Ronald Bergman, commander of the Valley Bureau. "Detectives from Robbery Homicide Division just recently tied the cases together using DNA."

The attacker has kidnapped victims by forcing them into his or their car, grabbed them on the sidewalk and dragged them to a secluded area, and assaulted one woman in her home, police said.

The suspect is described as Latino, 20 to 29 years old, with black hair, brown eyes. He is between 5 feet, 6 inches and 5 feet, 9 inches and weighs 190 to 210 pounds. He possibly has a mustache or goatee and in one of the early attacks he drove an older-model red Chevy S-10 Blazer with a spare tire in the back with a black cover, police said.

"He has mostly attacked women late at night or in the early morning hours who are alone," said Det. Susan Antenucci, one of the lead investigators. She said he usually approaches victims from behind. "Women should be aware of their surroundings. I don't want to make people paranoid, but women should try not to be alone at night."

Antenucci said a state DNA database in Sacramento linked the sexual assaults two weeks ago by matching the attacker's saliva and semen. The detectives also plan to use a national database to check for matches.

"This investigation is very young and there's a lot we haven't done yet, but we didn't want to wait to let the public know," she said. "It seems like he knows this area well."

The first known rape occurred in summer 2001 in Canoga Park, the location of most of the attacks. Other assaults have occurred in Reseda and Northridge, detectives said.

"Residents of the west San Fernando Valley need to be aware and need to be looking for someone who doesn't belong in their neighborhood, someone who is prowling," Police Cmdr. Mike Moore said.

Police said there may be more victims or others who fought off the attacker who have not come forward.

"We need any other victims to come to us," Bergman said.

Anyone with information is asked to call the rape special section at the Robbery Homicide Division, (818) 756-8309.

Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine also announced plans to offer a $25,000 reward for an arrest and conviction. The council is expected to approve Zine's motion at Friday's meeting.

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