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Long Beach Assault May Have Been Latest by Serial Predator

Times Staff Writer

The attempted sexual assault of a Long Beach woman in her home early Thursday may have been the latest by a sexual predator who has eluded police for at least six years and attacked women at least 11 times, creating anxiety in the communities where he struck.

Previously referred to as the Belmont Shore rapist before he was linked to attacks in other parts of Long Beach as well as Seattle, Los Alamitos and Huntington Beach, the serial attacker’s appearance is a mystery to victims and police: He has covered his face or that of his victims, leaving detectives with no physical description.

What he has left is DNA evidence that links him conclusively to 11 attacks, and perhaps several more, including two in August in which evidence is still being studied. Investigators believe Thursday’s attempted assault may be linked to the others.

Absent any composite drawing or even the vaguest of descriptions -- hair color or height -- Long Beach police beseeched the public to lock windows and doors, to discourage prowlers with good lighting and to report even the slightest of suspicions about unfamiliar people or sounds in their neighborhoods.

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“Those hundreds of thousands of eyes out there are what are going to see something and help give us the break we need to find this guy,” said Long Beach Police Sgt. Paul LeBaron. “Citizens are not the only ones having sleepless nights; so are the police officers. Because no one is safe and no one can sleep until he’s caught.”

A reward for information leading to the serial attacker’s arrest will be announced today.

In the latest attack, police said, a man entered through an unlocked window of a house near Stearns Street and Lakewood Boulevard, near the traffic circle, around 1 a.m. His face covered, he stood over the woman as she slept, then woke her and confronted her, LeBaron said.

The woman struggled with the man and he fled out a door, LeBaron said. No weapon was seen. The woman ran to a neighbor’s house and called police.

Officers sealed off the neighborhood, sent bloodhounds after the intruder’s scent and searched for several hours without success. A man was arrested for possession of a crack pipe, but police said he was not considered a suspect.

In past attacks, the serial assaulter has been known to strip nude either outside or inside the residence before he confronted the women. The oldest victim was 77, the youngest -- the one attacked Thursday -- was 30.

The intruder may have been injured in the struggle Thursday morning, police said, declining to be more specific, and they urged the public to report signs of suspicious injuries to police.

The first attack linked to the serial case occurred in Seattle, on Aug. 1, 1996. The next seven cases occurred in Long Beach between 1997 and April 2000.

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The man struck in June 2000 in Huntington Beach. Last May, he surfaced again in a Los Alamitos attack, then in June in Long Beach, the most recent case in which evidence links him to the previous cases.

In an attack near the traffic circle Aug. 15, which has not been linked by DNA to the series, the home intruder’s face was badly scratched, police said. In an Aug. 13 incident possibly linked to the serial attacker, a man confronted a Huntington Beach woman, 75, but was fought off and fled her home.

In most or all of the attacks, the man entered through unlocked doors and windows and may have researched when the victim would be alone. Information about the cases can be passed on to the Sexual Assault Investigations Hotline at (866) 600-1110.


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