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‘Riverbed Rapist’ Suspect Is Sought

Times Staff Writer

Police stepped up the hunt Thursday for the “L.A. Riverbed Rapist,” appealing to the public for help in finding the man suspected of sexually assaulting seven women over three years.

Arnulfo Vargas, 35, allegedly preyed on women waiting at bus stops or walking alone, forced them into his white pickup truck, drove to a deserted location and sexually assaulted them, said Det. Al Contreras of the Los Angeles Police Department.

In two of the assaults, the victims were abandoned naked in a tunnel near the Los Angeles River. He is accused of committing the crimes from March 2000 to last October. The victims ranged in age from 19 to 46.

Vargas has been a fugitive since July, when he was charged with six counts of rape, four of sexual assault, four of kidnapping and two of robbery.

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The Montebello man is believed to be armed and dangerous and traveling with his wife and daughter, said Deputy Chief Gary Brennan. Vargas, a maintenance worker and occasional disc jockey, has been seen in the Montebello and East Los Angeles areas within the last month, police said.

Last year, LAPD robbery-homicide detectives checking the area of the crimes stopped Vargas near the Los Angeles River while he was driving his pickup truck. He was questioned but not arrested.

Contreras said Vargas was linked to the crimes when a victim gave detectives a partial license plate. Vargas disappeared shortly after detectives interviewed him in May as a potential suspect and he refused to provide saliva for a DNA sample to check against that recovered from the victims. Both he and his wife then quit their jobs and disappeared. DNA evidence later was obtained from his home and it matched that from four victims.

Vargas is described as 5 feet 11 and 280 pounds, but police said he may have lost weight since fleeing.

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Anyone with information can contact detectives at (213) 485-2921 or (877) LAWFULL.


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