New turf: Serial rapist attacks again
The initial newspaper report of the August 18 Webland Drive attack did not mention the serial rapist, nor, indeed, even that there had been a sexual assault.
However, several details immediately suggested to police a connection to the man who's been genetically linked to six other attacks over the past seven years, and in particular, to a vicious assault in the Willoughby subdivision in November 2002:
*The attacker was waiting inside the woman's home when she returned from work around 3:15pm. Police believe the rapist stakes out his victims before attacking, and thus would know a woman would be alone in the house. The latest invasion appears to be the first in which he forced open a locked door.
*He punched her in the face. Police say the serial rapist uses a "blitz attack" to incapacitate his victims.
*The attacker was a black male with prominent eye whites. While descriptions of his height have ranged from 5 feet 7 inches (as in this case) to 6 feet, the victims have recollected the large whites of his eyes.
It wasn't until a week later that police announced that the Webland attack was the work of the serial rapist, whose reign of terror began with his first reported assault of a woman in a Waynesboro hotel in February 1997.
However, almost immediately after the August 18 incident, police were canvassing Crenshaw Trailer Park, Garden Court, Whitewood Road, Albert Court, and other nearby neighborhoods off Hydraulic Road.
Officers in pairs asking about a burglary came three different times to the house of one woman who lives a block away in Birnam Wood.
"I thought, good Lord, I had no idea Charlottesville took such interest in break-ins," says the woman, a widow, who asked that her name not be used.
Why did it take until August 25 to notify the public– and the immediate neighborhoods– that the serial rapist had struck again?
For one thing, detectives didn't get to talk to the victim "for a good eight hours," says Lt. Greg Jenkins with the Albemarle police, because the rescue squad had already taken her to UVA Medical Center. "Quite frankly, she didn't know if she'd been sexually assaulted," adds Jenkins. "We feel we put it out there as quickly as we could."
That meant waiting until physical evidence linking the serial rapist had been confirmed with the state lab– and Jenkins declines to describe that evidence.
One other thing. "We're not saying it's a rape this time," clarifies Jenkins. "It was a sexual assault, and he's been forensically linked to this case and others."
Now that she knows it's a sexual assault, the widow in Birnam Wood says, "I won't leave my window open at night; I absolutely won't."
Another woman living nearby says the attack has spurred a "lucky day" for security companies. "I am with the security system man walking around at this very minute," she reports.
This woman, a mental health professional, heard about the attack almost immediately through word of mouth– not through the police or the media. But that doesn't bother her. "I'd rather have accurate information than inaccurate," she says. "I have to trust police are acting in our best interest."
Now, she and other women in the area are taking police advice: They're leaving lights on outside– even if they have a motion detector– and women are walking their dogs in pairs.
This woman does complain about one thing: The rapist "was over by JPA when I lived there." Now he's struck in her neighborhood again.
The last confirmed attack was April 26, 2003. Since it became apparent a predator was at work in 2002, police have spent countless hours on the case. Not all their efforts have won neighborhood accolades.
Nearly 600 saliva samples, called buccal swabs, were taken from black males who allegedly fit the perp's description. Outraged citizens charged police with "profiling," and prodded Charlottesville police Chief Tim Longo to review procedures. The swabbing also has resulted in a lawsuit.
And after issuing three different sketches of the assailant, police have abandoned that tactic for now. "We've taken the composite off our website," says Jenkins. "We don't want to cloud anyone's mind with, 'that doesn't look like Jimmy.' "
Especially if Jimmy had bruises on his hands a week or so ago from punching out his latest victim.
Police are still convinced the serial rapist lives in either Charlottesville or Albemarle County.
"I think we're going to be surprised when he's caught, particularly the people who live or work with him," says Jessica McGrane at the Sexual Assault Resource Agency.
She advises that women keep an eye out and pay attention to everybody– "not just strangers. It could be somebody you know," she says, pointing out that women know their attackers in 85 percent of sexual assaults.
Besides raising fears in the community that went for over year without a confirmed attack, the latest appearance of the serial rapist has probably touched off a new wave of fear for sexual assault survivors, says McGrane, who suggests victims call the SARA help line at 977-7273.
Even after the rapist is caught, the fear will remain, says McGrane. "It won't go away when he does."
January 16, 2003: The Hook covers the ongoing threat.
Tracking a predator: He's back
1. February 11, 1997 – 12am rape in Waynesboro hotel room. DNA link.
2. June 12, 1999 – 11:30pm rape in the 2300 block of JPA near Fry's Spring. DNA link.
3. April 15, 2000 – 2am rape in the 400 block of 13th Street NW. DNA link.
4. May 3, 2000 – 3am attempted rape and assault in Lambeth Parking lot off Emmet Street across from U-Hall. DNA link.
5. November 11, 2002 – 9am rape and brutal beating in Willoughby subdivision. DNA link.
6. September 26, 2002: 2am sexual assault at Ivy Gardens on Ivy Road. No DNA, but police feel "95 percent" sure he did it.
7. April 26, 2003– 3:15am sexual assault in the 1900 block of JPA. DNA link.
8. August 18, 2004– 3:20pm sexual assault on the 1500 block of Webland Drive. DNA link.