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Serial Rapist Believed Stalking Women in Simi

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Police now believe that a serial rapist, responsible for five sexual assaults and two rapes since 1996, is prowling the streets of Simi Valley and stalking young women who fit a particular profile.

Believing the rapist carefully selects victims who are young and thin with light brown hair, Simi Valley Police Department officials have increased the number of officers on the case from two to 12, seeking to track down the man before he strikes again.

While some physical evidence links the crimes, “it’s more the similarities in his M.O. and the manner in which he’s behaving that leads us to believe it’s the same individual,” said Sgt. Andrew McCluskey of the department’s violent crimes unit. “He follows a similar pattern in each incident.”

After a 15-year-old girl was raped in her home March 22, police suspected the crime was the latest in a string of attacks that began in 1996.

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Because of physical evidence left at the scene and a description provided by the victim, investigators concluded Tuesday that the rape was linked to the earlier attacks. They stepped up their efforts with the addition of officers from the sex crimes and special operations units.

McCluskey said detectives believe the suspect carefully studies his victims--all between the ages of 15 and 23--and their homes before he attacks. In addition, none of the victims live alone, but share their homes with parents or other family members.

“He’s obviously doing his homework,” McCluskey said. “He knows there are other people in the house and that may be one of the things that’s motivating him. He likes the danger.”

Last month, a man described by the teenage victim as white and in his early 20s, entered the home in the neighborhood near Tapo Canyon Road and Cochran Street through an unlocked door about 2 a.m. While the parents slept in an adjacent room, the assailant entered the girl’s bedroom and, brandishing a large knife, raped her.

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He fled on foot, eluding a police search.

The latest incident shares many characteristics with a series of other attacks over the last two years.

On June 8, 1996, a man entered a home through an unlocked door occupied by a family in a neighborhood between Sycamore Drive and Sequoia Avenue. The intruder approached a young woman in the home, but was scared after other residents were awakened.

On Sept. 2, 1996, a man entered a home through an unlocked door about 2:15 a.m. in the city’s west end. He subdued and raped a 19-year-old woman while other family members slept.

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On Sept. 26, 1996, a 23-year-old woman was awakened in a home in the 1200 block of Royal Avenue about 1:45 a.m. after a male intruder wrapped his hands around her neck. After a short fight, the man fled, leaving the victim with scratches on her neck. Police determined the man entered through an unlocked door.

On Jan. 12, 1997, a 21-year-old woman sleeping in her home in the neighborhood between Sycamore Drive and Tapo Canyon Road was awakened after a man placed his hands over her mouth. She resisted and the man fled.

On Oct. 25, 1997, a 15-year-old girl was assaulted in her home in the neighborhood between Sycamore Drive and Sequoia Avenue, but fled after other family members heard a commotion in the girl’s room.

On June 14, 1997, an 18-year-old woman was attacked at knifepoint about 4 a.m. after a man removed a window screen and forced open the window of a home located north of the Ronald Reagan Freeway between Erringer Road and Sycamore Drive. The man fled after other residents in the home were awakened by the woman’s screams. She was unhurt.

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Descriptions of the suspect have been sketchy, police said, because the victims are most often jarred from their sleep and attacked in the dark. But they believe the man is white or Latino in his early 20s with a medium build and dressed in dark clothing.

The state attorney general’s office, with the help of the FBI, developed a psychological profile of the suspect after the June 14 attack.

According to the profile, the suspect most likely lives in the area, is single and has been unsuccessful in maintaining long-term relationships with women of similar age.

He is introverted and quiet and, if employed, has a job that does not involve much contact with the public.

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Additionally, the suspect may live with someone upon whom he is financially dependent but does not have to account to for late-night and early morning absences, according to the profile.

Police also speculate the suspect may have a criminal record for comparatively minor offenses like indecent exposure, peeping, burglary and trespassing. He may also be following reports of his crimes through the media and may talk openly about them with friends and acquaintances.

News that Simi Valley has a sexual predator in its midst was enough to alert many residents who said they have taken extra precautions to make sure they don’t become a target.

“I came from New York, so I’m security-conscious to begin with,” said Margaret Gelchie, who lives in the neighborhood where the September 1996 attack took place. “I have security doors and lights in the front, and I always make sure everything’s locked. . . . In this day and age you can’t be a fool--you have to protect yourself.”

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Donna Nicholas said the spate of assaults saddens her more than it worries her, yet she has taken measures to make sure her family is protected.

“It’s not making us paranoid or anything, but it’s always there in the back of your mind,” she said. “We’re taking precautions but not anything unusual. Just locking the doors and all the windows.”

Which is exactly what police hope everyone else will do.

The attacks have been crimes of opportunity. In each instance, the man gained easy access to the victims’ home through an unlocked door or window.

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“Even though we live in one of the safest cities in America, crime does happen and people should always be aware of that,” said Sgt. Bob Gardner. “One of the best ways to prevent crime is to keep your doors and windows locked.”


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