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LAPD arrests suspect in serial rapes by man posing as officer

Torrance resident, 46, could be linked through DNA evidence to up to nine assaults since 1999.

July 14, 2007|Richard Winton | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles police detectives have arrested a 46-year-old man they believe is a serial rapist suspected in as many as nine assaults, including several in which he posed as a police officer, officials said Friday.

Leon Ellis Jr. of Torrance was charged this week with two sexual assaults, in April 2001 and last month, both in Los Angeles. But detectives said they expect further charges.

Det. Jesse Alvarado said DNA evidence from the final attack matches evidence from seven other assaults dating to 1999. The other cases include attacks on women in Greater Los Angeles and in Chicago, where Ellis lived in 2004, Alvarado said.

Police said the victims were offered or accepted work as prostitutes or strippers, then were lured to motels or other locations. In at least three of the cases, investigators allege that Ellis told the victims he was a police officer and would arrest them if they did not comply with his demands.

In the seven Los Angeles-area cases, Ellis allegedly picked up the women on or near Figueroa Street in South Los Angeles and then drove them to another location, where he assaulted them.

Two of the attacks occurred this year. In March, detectives believe the suspect picked up a woman and took her to an area near Imperial Highway to rape her. During the last assault June 23, the victim was able to obtain a partial license plate number, which detectives traced through rental car agency records to Ellis.

Ellis was arrested July 7 and pleaded not guilty three days later to six felony counts of rape, forcible oral copulation, kidnapping and robbery. He was being held in lieu of $2.6-million bail. If convicted, he faces a potential life prison sentence.

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richard.winton@latimes.com

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