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1 rapist-robber committed 30 massage parlor attacks, officials say

The 'extremely violent' assaults took place in three Southland counties from 2003-09, but authorities 'don't think he has stopped.'

September 25, 2013|By Richard Winton and Kate Mather

Authorities revealed Wednesday that they believe a single serial rapist is responsible for at least 30 "extremely violent" sexual assaults and robberies at massage parlors across Southern California.

The man is suspected in the string of attacks that date back a decade across Riverside, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. He appears to target immigrant workers and threatened to kill some victims if they reported the attacks to police, officials said.

The first reported attack occurred in the Chino Hills area in 2003, the most recent in Riverside in 2009, but police believe there are more. "We don't think he has stopped," Riverside Police Det. Aurelio Melendrez said.

The cases were connected through a combination of DNA evidence, surveillance videotapes, witness identifications and other evidence.

In each case, officials said, the man showed the same basic behavior. He entered the massage parlor or spa and managed to get into a back area. Then he pulled out a gun or knife, gathered employees and forced women to disrobe.

The man then "severely beat the victims" before robbing them, Melendrez said.

In one case, the man chased a 55-year-old woman down a hallway, slamming her into a wall so hard her shoulder was dislocated. The man punched her — breaking her collarbone and knocking out five teeth — before he dragged her by the hair back down the hallway.

"He's capable of great violence," Melendrez said. "It's repulsive."

Investigators began linking the cases last year, after DNA taken from a 2009 attack in Riverside matched samples taken from scenes in Gardena, the City of Industry, the Chino Hills area and Fontana. Though DNA has connected only five of the cases, investigators said video footage and other information tied the suspect to five other attacks, including cases in Corona and Pedley where the suspect wore the same shirt.

Because the man appeared to target small businesses with immigrant employees, police said, they fear many additional attacks went unreported. The attacker also told victims he would kill them if they contacted police, Melendrez said.

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

Melendrez described the attacker as "confident and brazen," noting the attacks were "middle-of-the-day crimes."

In some cases, the man sexually assaulted more than one woman at one location. All of the robberies, except one that was interrupted, were accompanied by a sexual assault.

Authorities said they decided to release a video and photos of the suspect — a man in his 40s, weighing between 240 and 260 pounds, about 6 feet tall — because they had exhausted all other methods of trying to find him.

"He's operating in what we would call a normal state of mind during the rest of his life," Melendrez said of the attacker. "He's able to compartmentalize."

The Riverside County district attorney's office has charged the unknown suspect with 31 felonies, including multiple counts of kidnapping, assault with a firearm, forced oral copulation and rape.

The July 2012 complaint against John Doe identified 11 victims from six cases.

richard.winton@latimes.com

kate.mather@latimes.com

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