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Serial rapist sought in violent massage parlor attacks

September 25, 2013|By Richard Winton and Kate Mather

Authorities are looking for a serial rapist they believe sexually assaulted and robbed at least 30 victims at spas and massage parlors across Southern California, Riverside police said Wednesday.

The investigation into the attacks -- which began at least a decade ago -- was triggered by a 2009 sexual assault and robbery at a parlor in Riverside. Last year, detectives learned DNA from that attack matched DNA profiles from four others from Gardena, Industry, Chino Hills and Fontana, police said.

Detectives used surveillance footage and other information to link their suspect to five other incidents, including cases in Corona and Pedley, where the suspect wore the same shirt, authorities said. They also believe the man may be responsible for additional attacks in San Bernardino County.

Authorities said the suspect will enter the massage parlor and somehow con his way into a back area. Then, he pulls out a gun -- and sometimes a knife -- gathers employees, and forces women to disrobe.

"Once inside the business, that's where the sexual assaults occur, " Riverside police Det. Aurelio Melendrez said.

The suspect -- described as a man in his 40s, weighing more than 200 pounds and standing just over 6 feet tall -- "severely beat the victims," Melendrez said. In one case, he added, the man "slammed a 55-year-old woman into a wall, breaking her collarbone and knocking out five teeth."

The robberies occurred after the assaults, police said.

Melendrez described the suspect as "confident and brazen," noting the attacks were "middle-of-the-day crimes." Many attacks included multiple victims, authorities said. All of the robberies, except one that was interrupted, were accompanied by a sexual assault.

After the attack in Fontana, authorities said, detectives believe the suspect robbed another business in Colton.

Though the crimes police discussed Wednesday date between 2003 and 2009, authorities believe others occurred.

"We don't think he has stopped," Melendrez said.

Officials fear many incidents went unreported, as the suspect appeared to target small establishments with foreign employees "less inclined" to contact police.

"There are aspects of shame, and we believe there are other victims out there," Riverside police Chief Sergio Diaz said.

The Riverside County district attorney's office has filed 31 charges against the suspect, named as "John Doe." The counts relate to the five cases linked by DNA: a 2003 incident in Chino Hills, a 2004 incident in Fontana, a 2006 incident in Industry, and 2009 incidents in Gardena and Riverside.

Officials said there were about a dozen victims in those cases. In some, one victim was robbed, sexually assaulted and beaten.

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