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Arrest made in rape, robbery of elderly women in Long Beach

Long Beach police arrested a 39-year old man Friday who is suspected of knocking on doors in a senior housing center and then robbing and assaulting the elderly women who answered.

In at least one case, the robber sexually assaulted his victim before fleeing with her cash.

Melvin Earl Farmer Jr., of Lynwood, was taken into custody on suspicion of residential robbery, rape, oral copulation by force or fear, issuing a death threat and assault with a deadly weapon.

An unnamed 31-year old woman, also of Lynwood, was arrested as a possible accomplice, police said.

“We hope our community can rest a little easier tonight,” said Long Beach Police Chief Robert G. Luna said at a 6 p.m. press conference.

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The string of five robberies, four of which occurred at a senior housing center near Atlantic Avenue and Via Carmelitos, began on Feb. 2 and ended Thursday, according to police.

In the final incident, in the 3700 block of Pacific Avenue, the robber knocked on a 90-year-old woman’s door at around 7:24 a.m. When she answered, the man forced his way into her residence, robbed her and attempted to sexually assault her, police said.

The woman fought back, and during the struggle a panic alarm at the residence was activated. The woman was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Investigators found video images of the suspect captured by security cameras.

After the images were made public, a tipster identified the man as Farmer. A day later, he was in custody, Luna said.

In most of the incidents, the assailant physically assaulted the women before making off with purses, cell phones or cash. One of them was raped, police said.

The victims were between the ages of 63 and 95 years old.

jack.dolan@latimes.com

Follow on Twitter at @JackDolanLAT

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