WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBSMiami.com) –Authorities in Palm Beach County say a serial rapist is on the loose and — after lying dormant for 20 months — investigators say he is linked to an attack 12 days ago.
In all, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s detectives believe the man is responsible for at least 5 sexual assaults dating back to 2009.
The most recent occurred nearly two weeks ago in a grassy area in central Palm Beach County near an apartment complex less than a mile from I-95 on 10th Avenue North.
Investigators say the victim, a 22-year-old woman was walking around 6:30 am while wearing an iPod. A witness told detectives the attacker followed the woman and grabbed her from behind, dragging her into some nearby bushes. Authorities say the woman fought the man, biting one of his fingers. Investigators say the suspect bit the woman twice in the face, held the woman down with his arm across her throat and his hand over her mouth.
PBSO says the woman lost consciousness and woke up with her pants off and her purse missing.
People who live in the Esperanza Apartments said the attack is frightening.
“That’s scary,” a resident, who declined to give her name, told CBS 4 News. “I’m not gonna let my kids come out the door no more.”
Detectives have been on the suspect’s trail since April 2009. According to PBSO, they have linked him to the five attacks through DNA.
The attacks began in April 2009 in Jupiter. Grainy surveillance video shows a man walking behind a 21-year-old woman minutes before she is beaten, bitten and raped.
In July 2009, a 26-year old victim in central Palm Beach County told investigators she was sleeping in her residence with her young child in the room next door when an armed man broke in and attacked her.
In August 2009 — again in central Palm Beach County — a 53-year-old woman told detectives she was sitting on her front porch when she was beaten, bitten and sexually assaulted. The suspect stole two rings off of her fingers.
In January 2010 — again in central Palm Beach County — a 58-year-old woman was attacked while walking to work in the early morning hours. She was sexually assaulted and the suspect also stole two rings from her. One of the rings is gold with 5 birthstones in a cluster. The other is a man’s gold band containing several diamond chips.
For the next 20 months, the attacks stop. That puzzles investigators.
“If he — this person moved away for a time, this person may have been in jail for a time or this person may not have felt the urge to go out and commit another sexual assault,” said Captain Carol Gregg.
At the Esperanza apartments near the assault in September, women we spoke with Wednesday said they were not told of the attack near their homes.
“I think we should look out and that everyone should know about it, because I didn’t know about it (until Wednesday),” said Paige Dipirro.
In the latest assault the attacker stole the victim’s messenger bag. The bag is adorned with a peace sign.
Investigators have the suspect’s DNA. However, they say his DNA does not match any DNA samples in any criminal database.
“It’s frustrating when we know it’s the same person but we have not been able to identify him,” said Captain Gregg.
Investigators are warning residents to be on guard for another attack. They recommend women be cognizant of their surroundings. They also recommend walking with a friend.
PBSO is urging anyone with information about the attacker to call Crimestoppers at 1-800 458 TIPS.