Suspect arrested in hunt for machete-wielding Boyle Heights rapist

A sense of relief washed over the Boyle Heights neighborhood Wednesday after police announced the arrest of a man suspected of breaking into a woman's home armed with a machete and sexually assaulting her earlier this month.

Manuel Larios Munoz, 21, was arrested Friday and charged Wednesday with forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by a foreign object and first-degree burglary, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office said. If convicted, prosecutors said, he faces up to life in prison.

Police said the investigation began after a man broke into a 30-year-old woman's home in the 1800 block of Pennsylvania Avenue around 12:30 a.m. May 15 while she was asleep. The man removed his clothes and stood at the foot of her bed armed with a machete before attacking her, said Capt. Martin Baeza, who heads the LAPD's Hollenbeck division, which includes Boyle Heights.

"As you can imagine, this brought great concern to the community in regard to this type of brazen criminal activity," Baeza said at a Wednesday news conference.

Residents said the attack had spread fear in the area.

When George Moreno, a Boyle Heights resident, learned of the assault, he told his mother to make sure their doors were always locked and to put a bat by the front door. The 20-year-old worried for his mother and 7-year-old sister.

"I'm relieved," Moreno said. "Now I can go to work in peace without thinking he's on the loose."

Martha Hatch, 48, held her 7-year-old daughter, Heidi, tightly by the hand as they crossed the street on the way to their Boyle Heights home Wednesday. The attack prompted Hatch and her husband, residents in the area for more than 20 years, to become more cautious, making sure to check that their windows and doors were secure at all times.

"It's unbelievable that this happened," said Hatch, as she kept a close eye on her daughter, who played nearby. "It's great they caught him. I feel relief. Now I think police are paying attention in this area because at times, it appears abandoned by authorities."

Baeza credited newly deployed foot patrols for helping in the arrest. The Los Angeles Police Department recently doubled the number of areas patrolled by officers on foot in its Hollenbeck division. Sixteen officers were assigned to eight areas, some only about a quarter-mile.

The captain said officers had distributed fliers and shared other information about the attack with community members, urging them to be on the lookout for the suspect.

A resident called police last week with a tip about someone who appeared to match the description of the attacker, Baeza said. Munoz, who was homeless and living alone under an overpass, was arrested soon afterward.

Baeza said investigators don't think that Munoz was involved in other attacks and that there was no indication he knew the woman who was attacked.

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