While they investigate if a serial rapist selected his victims
from area schools, Miami-Dade detectives are following a flood of
By Luisa Yanez, The Miami Herald
The rapist plaguing North Miami-Dade may have targeted some of his
youngest victims because they are pupils at a neighborhood elementary
Among the leads the police are pursuing: that the rapist may have
worked at or visited the schools the girls attend.
Five attacks have been linked by DNA to the rapist -- and another 10
crimes fit the rapist's profile and method of operation. His victims
or possible victims have all been black females: four in their 20s or
30s, six teenagers and five girls age 10 or younger. His most recent
victims, ages 7 and 8, were raped Nov. 28.
On Wednesday, sexual crimes detectives were at the school where two
of the young victims attend, "reinterviewing people" with a new
"It's one of the many things we're checking out. It's one of the
first patterns we've seen, but it's only a theory," said Detective
Robert Garland, the lead investigator in the case. Police declined to
identify the school.
Today, the detectives will canvass other elementary schools from
Liberty City to Carol City for leads to the rapist.
Garland would not elaborate on other possible links between the
schools the victims attend and the rapist.
Pete Cuccaro, chief of the School Police Department, said his staff
is ready to help Miami-Dade detectives.
"They'll be directed to our investigative branch, and we'll do
everything we can to facilitate their work," Cuccaro said.
John Schuster, a school district spokesman, said all schools in the
area will warn students about the rapist.
"Our principals have always had an excellent record of notifying
students and parents in other similar situations, for example, the
case in Shenandoah," Schuster said.
The Shenandoah rapist also targeted school-age girls, prompting
principals to send home fliers alerting parents in August. Children
were also taught in school to be extra cautious. During the height of
the search for that rapist, few children played outside. Reynaldo
Elias Rapalo has confessed to seven Shenandoah rapes, police have
"With little kids, you do things a little different," Schuster said.
``You have to go over the safety rules again: don't walk alone, pay
attention, lock doors."
Meanwhile, police said an initiative begun Tuesday to conduct
door-to-door canvassing in the neighborhood where the rapist has
struck -- coupled with a mass mailing of 54,000 fliers to homes in
those ZIP Codes -- has generated hundreds of calls to Crime Stoppers
"The phones have been jumping off the hook," Garland said. ``We are
loaded down with tips. Most have been informational types, like
someone saw a suspicious white van, things like that. We're hoping
some good will develop from them."
Wednesday night, detectives were out knocking on doors again. Police
have said catching the rapist is a No. 1 priority.
The rapist may have begun his attacks in November 2002, performing a
lewd act with a 12-year-old girl. Police think the same man may be
behind 15 crimes, including burglary, attempted assault, rape and
The seriousness of his crimes, police note, may be escalating. In
October, after attacking a 10-year-old girl in her home, he attempted
to break in the following day to rape her a second time.
The rapist strikes in the early morning hours, usually when his
victims are asleep. He breaks in through a window and uses a variety
of weapons -- from his bare hands to a gun or knife.
He covers his face with a scarf or mask.
Only one woman out of his 15 possible victims -- a 20-year-old woman
raped in June at gunpoint -- has seen his face. The victim's
description of the man provided police with the information for the
sketch being circulated.
An FBI profile done on the rapist is also serving as a guide for detectives.
"He gives a sense that he lives or has family or works in the area,
maybe a 9-to-5 job," Garland said.
The rapist never takes money or valuables, an indication, Garland
said, that he's not a drifter or drug user. ``He never takes money or
anything to pawn. He has the opportunity, but he doesn't."
The rapist speaks with no noticeable accent and doesn't use street
slang, Garland said. ``He's well-spoken and says just enough to his
Unlike the Shenandoah serial rape suspect captured in September, the
North Miami-Dade rapist is working a wide area. Victims are targeted
between Northwest 62nd and 191st streets and between Northwest Second
and 37th avenues.
"His comfort zone is very big," Garland said. ``I call him the needle
in a haystack and the haystack is pretty big."