Rape city?

Serial rapists are nothing new to Charlottesville. In 1975, when rapes were at an all-time high, the Cavalier Daily routinely referred to the town as "rape city," according to Coy Barefoot in his book, The Corner.

What caused Charlottesville rape statistics to spike in the mid-'70s? Barefoot draws a correlation to the admission of women to the University of Virginia in 1970. "Clearly, that's why the numbers went up," he says.

Jim Haden, who was a lieutenant in investigations with the Charlottesville Police Department then, concurs that UVA's going coed had an effect on the number of rapes– 15 to 20 a year– in Charlottesville. And prosecuting rapes was a much more difficult process then without the benefit of DNA evidence.

"We had to come up with a suspect," he says. Police could use semen swabs and vaginal swabs, but "If the blood types were the same, there wasn't much you could do" he says.

The biggest development during the '70s, recalls Haden, was the development of the PERK kit. The Physical Evidence Recovery Kit standardized a wildly varying process of collecting evidence, providing a specific procedure for doctors and nurses to follow.

John DeKoven "Deke" Bowen, who was police chief at the time, remembers extensive stake-outs of the university area. "We had a series of sexual assaults in the university area," he says. But he adds, "I can't think of anything with the brutality of these" latest rapes.

Virginia's DNA databank gave a definite advantage to police in the late 1990s in catching offenders, leading to convictions of four Charlottesville serial rapists.

Calvin Perry was a convicted murderer out on parole when he raped two women on the same weekend in April 1993. Thanks to a DNA cold hit, he was indicted seven years later in June 2000, and on March 22, 2001, in Charlottesville Circuit Court, he was sentenced to life imprisonment, with all suspended except for 25 years.

UVA student Christopher McAllister was a suspect in four sexual assaults, according to police. He was arrested in 1997 and indicted for a 1994 assault and battery and for intent to commit rape in 1995. On April 14, 1998, he was sentenced to 65 years in prison, with 48 years suspended.

Shannon Malnowski, one of Charlottesville's more notorious serial rapists, is suspected of assaulting at least four women, including a 78-year-old woman off Rugby Road on July 4, 1997.

When a woman was attacked July 28, 2000, at the Charlottesville High School track, witnesses mentioned seeing a black male riding a bicycle in the area. Police officers tied that detail to a report that after a fight with his girlfriend, Malnowski had ridden off on a bicycle. When his DNA sample was analyzed, it tied him to the rape of the elderly woman, as well as to a November 1996 assault.

On November 9, 2001, Malnowski was sentenced to life imprisonment in Albemarle Circuit Court. Two weeks later on November 26, he was sentenced in Charlottesville Circuit Court to 50 years in prison.

On April 17, 2001, Michael Plum grabbed a woman in daylight and assaulted her in Tonsler Park in an attack so brazen that people were reporting it on their cell phones, according to police. His DNA matched that found in the attack of a UVA student who was raped at Beta Bridge in 1998. Plum was sentenced to 185 years in prison, with 120 suspended.

Police note one big difference in the local serial rapists: They describe Malnowski and Plum as opportunist rapists who acted on impulse in their attacks, unlike the predator who's currently hunting for targets in Charlottesville.

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