Police use media to hunt rapist

Police and federal authorities in seven states launched a public awareness campaign on Monday to catch a man who has raped 12 women across the East Coast from the Elm City to Virginia.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, along with six local police departments in four states, announced a digital billboard and online campaign Monday to catch an unidentified man deemed the “East Coast Rapist.” The rapist, who has been active since February 1997, has been connected by DNA evidence to 12 sexual assaults in Fairfax County, Va., Prince William County, Va., Leesburg, Va., Prince George’s County, Md., Cranston, R.I., and New Haven. He is linked to a January 2007 attack in New Haven. Digital billboards in the four affected states as well as New Jersey, New York and Delaware will now display composite drawings of the man from different victim accounts, according to a press release distributed by New Haven Police Department spokesman Joseph Avery.

“These billboards give each local police departments, and the FBI, an added edge to identifying, locating and apprehending the subject,” Ronald Hosko, special agent in charge of the Criminal Division of the FBI’s Washington, D.C., field office, said in the release. “The public is the most important tool law enforcement has for solving crime.”

Connecticut only has one billboard — along Interstate 91, near Exit 7 in Fair Haven.

Avery said the billboards were not spurred by any recent incident, but are an FBI-led attempt to increase public awareness about the incidents and jog witnesses’ memories with the pictures. Since the FBI began posting digital billboards of wanted criminals at least 39 cases have been solved as a direct result from tips from the public, the press release said.

The “East Coast Rapist” campaign is not only limited to billboards. The Fairfax County Police Department, along with the other local and federal agencies, created a website, EastCoastRapist.com, to provide more details about the case and police contacts.

According to the website, the suspect is “a brazen, cold-blooded rapist” and a “neighborhood stalker who won’t stop until he’s caught.”

At 1:21 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2007, the rapist entered a woman’s first-floor apartment through an unlocked window on the 300 block of Smith Avenue in the Quinnipiac Meadows area of New Haven. He reportedly threatened to kill her 11-month-old son, and then raped her.

Cpl. Henry Tippett of the Prince George’s County police force told the News that there have been no leads on the investigation in “a long time,” but that the department maintains a reward of up to a $25,000 for information related to the rapist.

Victims in the assaults have been black, white and Hispanic females. According to the press release, after approaching the victim, the offender will often ask for money, but does not take anything after the assault. A 2009 witness description of the rapist said that he is a black male approximately 40 years old who spoke through clenched teeth.

The most recent DNA-connected assault took place on Oct. 31, 2009, in Woodbridge, Va.

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