By Ken Kolker, The Grand Rapids (Mich.) Press
A man suspected of breaking into homes and raping five women over the past five years, most within blocks of each other, was arrested Tuesday in Grand Rapids.
The suspected serial rapist, identified as 25-year-old Ryan Gervenak, was linked recently to all five by DNA tests, police said.
He was being held at Kent County Jail on one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and home invasion.
Grand Rapids police and the Kent County Sheriff's Department were seeking warrants today on other cases, Grand Rapids Police Lt. Paul Warwick said.
The arrest came about two months after the latest attack at a home on Grand Avenue NE in Grand Rapids, and about a month after DNA tests showed that one man was responsible for five rapes since 1998.
Police said they identified Gervenak as a suspect during the past two weeks.
He is suspected of breaking into homes while victims were sleeping, choking them and sexually assaulting them, according to police. He allegedly targeted women in their early 20s.
The string of assaults started in 1998. Four of the rapes were reported in a four-block area near East Fulton Street in the Midtown and Heritage Hill neighborhoods.
Two of the assaults, including the latest on Oct. 10, were in the same home on Grand Avenue NE, just north of East Fulton.
One of the assaults was outside the city -- the February 1999 attack of a woman at a home in the 3200 block of Coit Avenue NE in Plainfield Township, police said.
Gervenak was most recently living in the 500 block of North Avenue NE, north of Michigan Street NE, not far from the four break-ins and rapes in Midtown and Heritage Hill.
Police said they arrested him late Tuesday afternoon on the street outside his home. He has lived in at least five other homes in the area in recent years, according to records.
Grand Rapids Detective Les Smith and Kent County sheriff's Detective Jeff McAlary worked the case together and both came up with the suspect's name -- from the victim of the attack on Coit and from the latest victim on Grand Avenue, police said.
The latest victim said the man was someone she was aware of through mutual friends, Warwick said.
"It was somebody she had a bad feeling about," Warwick said.
That was enough to prompt police to ask Gervenak for what is known as a "buckle swab" -- taking a scraping from the inside of the mouth. The scraping was sent last week to the state police crime laboratory in Grand Rapids, Warwick said.
"The state police put it at its highest priority," Warwick said. "They moved this through the DNA process. The DNA process was very instrumental in this guy being identified and linked back to this case."
Grand Rapids police Capt. Jeff Hertel credited the two detectives who worked the case. "They did an excellent job working together and sharing information," he said.
Gervenak has a short criminal record: a 1994 conviction for breaking into a home in Marquette County when he was 16; and for attempted retail fraud in 1996 in Kentwood, state police records show.
Records show he had run a business known as GI Designing out of a prior home in the 1300 block of Logan St. SE in Grand Rapids. It wasn't clear what kind of business that was.
Police said they suspect he was the attacker in these cases:
The first assault in May 1998 at the home in the 100 block of Grand Avenue NE.
The Sept. 1, 1998, attack of a woman in her apartment in the 100 block of Prospect Avenue NE, about four blocks west of Grand.
In that case, the 24-year-old woman told police she awoke in her bed to find a man on top of her. He choked her to unconsciousness before sexually assaulting her, police said.
The February 1999 attack on Coit.
A May 2001 attack in a home in the 100 block of Prospect Avenue SE in Grand Rapids.
The Oct. 10 attack at the same home on Grand Avenue. In that case, a 20-year-old woman told police a man woke her early in the morning in her upstairs bedroom. Police said they believed he entered through an exterior stairwell.
On Nov. 10, the state police crime laboratory in Grand Rapids reported a link was likely in the five cases. Two days later the laboratory confirmed the link through DNA.
That led police to warn residents and to suggest that people in the East Fulton neighborhood make sure their homes were secure.