Miami Police Hunt For Second Rapist


BY Susannah A. Nesmith, The Miami Herald

Miami-Dade police are investigating four rapes and a home invasion between March 31 and Wednesday that they believe may have been committed by the same man.

Authorities say there is no reason to believe those cases are related to a serial rapist on the loose in the city of Miami. The descriptions of the two attackers are completely different, as are the circumstances of the attacks.

Miami-Dade investigators declined to say they were looking for another serial rapist but said the five cases are similar enough to suspect that one predator may be attacking women and girls in northwest and north-central Miami-Dade County.

''If we had something concrete tying all of them together, we would say that,'' said police spokesman Joey Giordano. ``We're acknowledging the similarities, but we're not limiting ourselves to focusing on one person.''

The victims range from a 10-year-old girl raped on May 14 to a 37-year-old woman raped early Wednesday. The attacks have occurred in the general vicinity of the Carol City, Norland and West Little River neighborhoods.

The rapist is described as a slim black man who speaks unaccented English. The attacker used a gun to threaten all of his victims.

All four rapes occurred between 2 and 5 a.m. Twice, the rapist got in through an unlocked window; it was unclear how he got in the other times.

SCARED OFF

In the home invasion, which occurred at 8 a.m. Tuesday, the man was hiding among backyard bushes and was able to force a girl into her home but was scared off by others in the home.

In the first three rape cases and the home invasion, the man concealed his face. But in Wednesday's rape, the victim saw the rapist and was able to provide police with information they used to create a sketch.

County police declined to discuss whether they have DNA evidence from any of the cases.

DNA samples, however, have played a key role in the investigation of seven rapes since September 2002 in southwest Miami. The rapist has been linked by DNA to six of the seven attacks, all of which occurred within a two-mile radius in Little Havana, Shenandoah and surrounding neighborhoods.

DAYTIME ATTACKS

In those cases, the rapist was Hispanic and spoke to his victims only in Spanish. He did not use a gun, and he entered the homes of his victims in a variety of ways -- from breaking in to asking for a glass of water. The rapes all occurred during the day, most of them in the afternoon.

Both the city and county attacks share one similarity. They were crimes of opportunity, police say. In the Miami-Dade cases, a window or door was apparently left open. In the Miami cases, the victims -- ranging from an 11-year-old girl to a 79-year-old woman -- were home alone.

Gregg McCrary, a retired FBI agent who specializes in criminal behavior, said stranger-rape cases are often some of the most difficult for police to solve.

DIFFICULT TO SOLVE

''In most rapes, even most violent-crime cases, the victim and offender know each other,'' he said. ``But in cases like this, where it's a stranger-based predator crime, it becomes much more difficult to solve it.''

He said the one advantage police have is outrage from the community, which often turns into many leads for investigators.

Miami investigators have received more than 150 calls from residents offering leads. In the hope of attracting more tips, authorities have doubled the reward offered for information about the rapist to $20,000. The extra money came from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which is assisting Miami with the investigation.

In addition, the federal Department of Homeland Security issued a statement Wednesday promising not to seek any information about illegal immigrants who cooperate with police in the hunt for the rapist.

Miami police suspect that their man is from Central America and may have arrived here illegally, since there is no record of his fingerprints in an immigration database.

ASSURANCE GIVEN

''Anyone who comes forth with information will be afforded strict confidentiality and should not be concerned with their immigration status,'' Jesus Torres, interim special agent in charge of the Miami Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigations office, said in a prepared statement.

Miami-Dade police are also asking for residents' help.

In the neighborhood where Wednesday's attack occurred around Northwest 183rd Street and Seventh Avenue, residents said they weren't aware of a rapist prowling the area.

TAKING PRECAUTIONS

''I generally don't come out hardly at all . . . and I hadn't heard about this, but I'll lock my doors and windows now,'' Patricia Watkins said.

Anyone with information for Miami or Miami-Dade police should call Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS (8477).

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