A simple safety adage has become tragically relevant because six elderly women have been raped recently in Los Angeles and the Southeast area of the county. Officials say the attacks may be related.
"Everyone should be made aware . . . not to just . . . open their doors" to strangers, South Gate Police Detective Judy Magers said this week.
Two of the rapes occurred earlier this month, one in Huntington Park and the other in the southwest part of Los Angeles. Two took place in early December in southwest Los Angeles and two occurred in November--in South Gate and the unincorporated area of Walnut Park, just south of Huntington Park.
The victims range in age from 56 to 88 and at least three of them lived alone, officials of the four police agencies investigating the cases said this week. No one has been arrested, officials said.
The victims in the Huntington Park, South Gate and Walnut Park cases told authorities that they were choked into submission and then raped, officials said. Weapons were not used in the four attacks.
"All indications are that (the attacks were by one person), but I can't say for sure," Los Angeles Police Sgt. D. A. Dreyer said.
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Detective T. A. Robinson said the common elements in the cases include the ages of the victims, the fact that the attacks took place at home and the choking or beating of the victims before they were raped.
"It's not like it's a 20-year-old coming home from a party," Robinson said. "We're talking about senior citizens in their homes."
The Huntington Park rape occurred early in the evening of Jan. 3, police Detective Paul Wadley said. The 88-year-old resident answered her door and a clean-cut man asked her for some water for his friend's radiator. When she opened the door to give the man the water, he started choking her and forced his way into the residence, Wadley said.
"He choked her to the point where she thought she was going to die," Wadley said. "She'd almost pass out and then he'd let up and choke her some more." The woman suffered no serious injuries from the choking, Wadley said.
The attacker stole the woman's wedding and engagement rings, a mink coat and $150 in cash before he fled, Wadley said.
In South Gate, a 77-year-old woman was raped in her home on the afternoon of Nov. 3, Detective Magers said.
The attacker knocked on the victim's door and asked her about a neighbor, Magers said. He forced his way in and choked and raped the woman, she said. The victim was treated by a local doctor and released.
The descriptions of the attackers in the Huntington Park and South Gate cases are different--a short Latino and a tall black man--but Magers said she is not ready to rule out the possibility that they were committed by the same person.