05/07/2003

Man in Video Surveillance Tape Sought in 7 Sexual Assaults

By By THOMAS J. LUECK, The New York Times

A man in his early 20's who seeks out unsuspecting women in elevators is being sought in a string of seven sexual assaults that have taken place in Manhattan and the Bronx since Jan. 15, the police said yesterday.

"This is a pretty slick guy," Deputy Inspector Susan Morley, commander of the Special Victims Unit, said at a news conference yesterday, describing the attacker's ability to disarm his victims with small talk.

The assailant, captured by a surveillance video as he walked casually through the lobby of a Manhattan building, was described as being black, 5 feet 7 inches to 5 feet 10 inches tall, and weighing 130 to 150 pounds, the authorities said. In the most recent attacks, his hair was in cornrows.

The police said four of the attacks took place in Manhattan - two of them in Chelsea and two north of East 14th Street. They would not provide addresses.

In each case, investigators said, the man approached his victim in an elevator. Some of the women were attacked in the elevator, and some were forced into stairwells or other nearby locations.

The victims range in age from 19 to 30. Some were attacked individually and others in groups, with the assailant in one case approaching three women at once in an elevator, sexually assaulting two of them, and fleeing with some of their property.

The police said the attacker had displayed a gun in just one of the assaults, but threatened the lives of all of his victims. "He seems to be very quick on his feet," Inspector Morley said. "He ingratiates himself, and the victims think he belongs where he is."

She said that detectives had no forensic evidence to establish a link among the attacks, but that they had established a clear pattern through the assailant's methods and comments to his victims.

The timing of the attacks has been irregular, from early morning to late night.

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