DNA trail: Serial rapist sought in eleven attacks

Here's how it happened for some of the victims: a glimpse of a stranger already in the house, then a punch in the face as prelude to the sexual assault.

On November 11, a woman was brutally raped in her Willoughby home. Police ran DNA evidence from that attack through the state's Department of Forensic Science database and came up with matches to four other unsolved attacks.

And they suspect the same rapist may be involved in six other attacks that have taken place since August, including two on September 26. Five of those victims were UVA students, and one was a UVA employee.

"The level of violence is escalating," says Charlottesville police chief Tim Longo, who urges caution and locked doors and windows. He describes the assaults as "blitz" attacks, the most recent being a quick blow to the victim's face.

Descriptions of the suspect are all over the map: a black male from 5'6" to 6'3" tall, a light to dark complexion, a medium to heavyset muscular build, and age in the early 20s to early 40s.

In the most recent assault, the victim described her attacker as about 6' tall, 200 pounds, with a muscular build and medium complexion. He was wearing a blue nylon-type running suit with white stripes on the pants, and earlier descriptions included a blue knit hat.

Longo calls her injuries, which required hospitalization and further surgery, "horrific."

The previous attacks that were positively linked through DNA evidence are a February 11, 1997, rape of a woman returning to her hotel room around 11pm in Waynesboro; a June 12, 1999, rape of a woman who was surprised in her home on Jefferson Park Avenue when she returned from work at 11:30pm; an April 15, 2000, rape of a UVA student living on 13th Street NW who was awakened in her bedroom at 2am after a man apparently forced open a window; and an attack two weeks later, May 3, 2000, at 2:40am, on a UVA student who was beaten but escaped her assailant in the Lambeth Parking lot off Emmet Street.

Police say the attacks have occurred in the morning, afternoon, and at night, and the suspect is both entering through unlocked doors and breaking in.

"Two were in third-floor apartments where he pulled himself up and over balconies," says Captain Chip Harding.

The attacker has taken small amounts of cash and apparently isn't totally accurate in targeting his victims. In some instances, he's gone in when a female wasn't alone.

Local police have not released a composite drawing, but one may be in the works.

In two cases, victims felt they were being followed in cars or in a store. "If a woman feels like someone is stalking her, please call the police," urges Harding.

And anyone with information about this suspect should call Lt. J.W. Gibson at 970-3379 or Crimestoppers at 977-4000.