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Serial Rapist Still at Large

The LAPD again asks for public's help in finding the suspect believed responsible for 21 attacks in the South and Central city area.

June 24, 2003|Jill Leovy | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles police asked for the public's help Monday in catching a gun-wielding serial rapist who has attacked 21 women, including eight juveniles, in the South and Central city area over the last four years.

In the most recent incident, a 15-year-old girl was attacked Friday morning near the intersection of Hoover Avenue and Gage Avenue.

The rapist, who is described as a man with one or two tears tattooed beneath one eye, strikes in the morning. All of the attacks have taken place between 5:45 and 8 a.m., police said. Many of the victims were on their way to work or school, and were assaulted as they waited at bus stops or walked on sidewalks.

In addition to his teardrop tattoos, a marking often associated with convicts, the suspect is described as Latino, 30 to 40 years old, with brown eyes and, in some descriptions, a mustache. He is described as of medium height and weight. Among items of clothing he has been described as wearing are a green bandana, a black baseball cap, a beanie and a dark hooded sweatshirt. He has spoken to his victims only in Spanish.

"These are crimes of opportunity. He is looking for individuals alone," said LAPD Det. Virginia Rubalcava. Women in the area should be on guard and wary of strangers who approach them, she said.

Most of the crimes have occurred on streets near the Harbor Freeway, although the suspect is believed to have attacked women as far west as Western Avenue and as far north as the Hollywood area. One attack occurred in unincorporated Los Angeles County.

The suspect typically has first approached victims to ask for directions or the time, said Capt. Al Michelina of the LAPD's Robbery-Homicide Division.

The suspect then pulls a handgun, and forces them into a nearby alley or carport to sexually assault them, he said.

One woman was raped. Twenty others have been sexually assaulted during rape attempts.

Victims have been fondled or forced to remove their clothing. Some were forced to perform oral sex, investigators said. None were struck or shot.

The youngest of the victims was 14, the oldest, 27. All were on foot, and all but one is Latina. Most of the victims are small, police said.

The assaults have come in spates, two in one day at one point. But they also have ceased entirely for long periods, sometimes months. Once, more than a year passed between attacks.

DNA has been recovered and matched in at least two cases, investigators said. But they would give no further details about physical evidence linking the attacks.

Primarily, Michelina said, it has been the similar nature of the attacks that convinced investigators that a single serial rapist was responsible.

Police made their first public appeal for help in finding the rapist last fall.

At least three attacks have occurred since then. They made their second appeal Monday, they said, to warn the public and to get additional tips to help solve the case.

Detectives have been hampered by delays in reporting the crimes, said LAPD Det. Gregory Stone.

In many cases, the women who were attacked continued on their way to work or school, reporting the crime to police only much later, making investigation more difficult.

Police believe that more women have been assaulted than their records indicate, Michelina said. He urged those with any knowledge of the assailant to speak up. Some of the attacker's victims have been able to escape because they resisted by screaming or struggling, investigators said.

The suspect has not shot any of his victims, but serial sexual predators sometimes become more violent as their attacks continue, Rubalcava said.

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