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Who is L.A.'s infamous 'teardrop' rapist? And when will he be caught?

It's one of the Los Angeles Police Department's most frustrating cases. Since 1996, women in a swath of Los Angeles between Hollywood and South L.A. have been attacked by a man with a teardrop tatoo on his face.

The first known attack occurred in April 1996. From then to June 2003, he struck more than two dozen times, police said.

Victims recounted similar stories: The assailant would force them into a secluded area at the point of a gun or knife before raping or otherwise sexually assaulting them.

In 2003, the attacks stopped, and detectives were never sure why.

But in 2005, another attack tied to the suspect occurred, this time in the Florence-Firestone area.

The attacks stopped until 2011, when a 15-year-old girl walking to school in Southwest L.A. was pulled into a yard by a man brandishing a gun. He sexually assaulted her. Samples of DNA linked the case to the earlier teardrop assaults.

The last known incident was in 2012 on Naomi Avenue near 25th Street in South Los Angeles. Police said the assailant forced himself on a woman but was scared off by an approaching vehicle.

There have always been questions about whether all the attacks were commited by the same assailant or whether there was more than one "teardrop" rapist.

On Monday, a Los Angeles County judge is expected to order the release of a man who has spent 16 years behind bars for three sexual assaults tied to the rapist.

DNA tests last year on evidence from one of the attacks excluded Luis Lorenzo Vargas, 46, as a suspect and pointed instead to an unidentified man.

The California Innocence Project at the California Western School of Law in San Diego noted in court documents that prosecutors argued at trial that the same suspect must have committed all of the attacks linked to Vargas.

The attacker has been described as a Latino, about 40 to 55 years old and weighing 130 to 170 pounds. He is 5 feet, 2 inches to 5 feet, 6 inches tall with brown hair, brown eyes and a light complexion. He sometimes wears a bandanna, beanie or baseball hat.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the LAPD's 24-hour number, (877) 527-3247, or email rhd-sas@lapd.lacity.org.

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