Records Show Alleged Rapist Choked His Victims
By Susannah A. Nesmith and Jay Weaver, The Miami Herald
The 11-year-old girl had just gotten home and was changing out of her school shoes when she heard the knock.
She looked out a window and saw a short, chubby man with a cellphone who looked like her cousin. She went to the front door and discovered it was a stranger.
He grabbed her by the neck and threatened to kill her if she didn't take her clothes off.
"I'd rather die than do this," she recalled thinking.
She survived to tell investigators about how the man raped her, how he coached her when her mother called and taunted her about raping her some more.
The account of the June 2 attack was released Thursday along with several hundred pages of investigators' reports relating to six other rapes allegedly committed by Reynaldo Elias Rapalo.
Rapalo, 32, is charged with raping women and girls ranging in age from 11 to 79 between September 2002 and June in southwest Miami.
DNA tests linked Rapalo to six of the seven rapes -- police didn't recover any evidence from the seventh. But Rapalo has confessed to all seven, police said.
One common thread running through all the assaults appears to be the rapist's preference for choking his victims.
When the 11-year-old opened the door, he asked her in Spanish if her mother was home, then demanded a glass of water. She wouldn't let him in. Her mother had told her not to let strangers inside.
"That is when he grabbed me by the neck," the girl told Mercy Restani, the forensic interviewer for the state attorney's office. He said he would kill her if she didn't take her clothes off.
The girl said she couldn't breathe.
She told him "No," and he squeezed her neck even harder.
She said as he raped her in her aunt's room, the phone rang and rang. When he released her to let her pick it up, it was her mother.
Coached by the rapist, she told her mother that she hadn't answered the phone right away because she was in the bathroom.
Her mother told her that she was coming home between 5 and 5:30 p.m. The attacker overheard this, and told the girl: "Oh, I still have 30 minutes to play with you some more."
"Do you want to go to jail because my mom is coming home," she told him after she hung up.
He didn't budge, saying he wanted to do the same thing to her mother that he did to her.
When he left -- 90 minutes after he showed up -- the girl locked the front door and called her mother. "I told her I had been raped," she told the interviewer.
The investigators' reports also detail the May 15 rape of a 13-year-old girl, allegedly Rapalo's first child victim.
KNOCKED ON DOOR
She told detectives that she walked home from the school bus stop and knocked on her door, but no one answered. She didn't have a key and walked around the back of the house to knock on a window.
When she went back to the front of the house, a man was standing there. The man led her back behind the house after telling her he saw someone inside talking on a phone in the back.
He grabbed her by the throat and made her take her pants off. He told her to lie down on the ground, where he raped her. When he was done, he walked away, talking on his cellphone.
The little girl ran to a neighbor's house, crying, her face buried in her hands, the neighbor told police. She was still wearing her backpack.
The third girl, a 13-year-old, was the rapist's last successful attack.
Armed with a screwdriver, the attacker confronted the girl at the rear kitchen door of her apartment on June 9 and threatened to kill her, police said. He dragged her to her mother's bedroom.
"If you don't do what I say, I'll kill," he told the girl.
She told police he raped her, and told her, "Don't tell anyone."
Following the attacks on the girls, police launched a massive manhunt for a man they believed was a pedophile. It wasn't until DNA revealed the same man had previously raped three women that they expanded their search. The seventh victim was an elderly woman raped on May 22.
The first victim, a 21-year-old, told police she had just come home and had accidentally left her door open. A few minutes later, she discovered a man standing in her doorway, according to the police reports released Thursday.
When he wouldn't leave, she tried to close the door.
He grabbed her by the throat and put a sharp instrument, possibly a knife, against her neck. He pushed her into the bedroom where he told her he was going to have sex with her, using a vulgar term she recognized as Honduran slang. After raping her on the bed, he ran away.
On Dec. 3, a 55-year-old woman found the rapist already inside the house when she returned from visiting her daughter. He grabbed her by the throat and told her he had seen her at Sedano's grocery store. He asked her where she was from and when she said Nicaragua, he said that's why he liked her, because he was Nicaraguan, too. He forced her into the bedroom where he raped her.
Police finally arrested Rapalo, a Honduran immigrant living in southwest Miami-Dade, on Sept. 19 while they were looking for another possible suspect.
Rapalo averted his eyes as he drove by the officers, who instinctively pulled him over. He resembled the victims' description of the rapist, so they brought him in.