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Be on the look-out: Public urged after latest attack

By Dan Heuchert

In the wake of a seventh known attack to be genetically linked to a serial rapist operating in the Charlottesville community since February 1997, local and University officials are renewing their appeals to the public for information and vigilance.

On Aug. 18, a woman arrived at her Webland Drive home (between Albemarle High School and the Rock Store) around 3:15 p.m. and discovered a man in the house, according to an Albemarle County police press release. He knocked her to the floor, sexually assaulted her and fled on foot. Police believe that the assailant gained access by breaking into a rear door, according to the release. The case was subsequently linked forensically to the other six reported cases, the release said.

Previously, the rapist was genetically linked to a May 2000 attack on a student at Lambeth Field, during which she resisted his attack and forced him to flee. Other attacks have occurred in both Charlottesville and Albemarle, as well as in Waynesboro.

Police are now de-emphasizing an earlier composite sketch of the suspect that was based on the accounts of several victims, instead offering the following descriptions:

• The assailant is believed to be a black male between the ages of 20 and 40.

• He is between 5-foot-6 and 6-feet tall, and weighs between 150 and 220 pounds.

• He has a medium to muscular athletic-type build.

• His eyes stand out as being extremely white.

• After the most recent attack, he may have bruising on lower arms or hands.

• He is extremely comfortable in and around the Charlottesville area.
There are frustratingly few similarities between the attacks, said Charlottesville Police Lt. Chip Harding. Victims have been white, black, Asian and South American; attacks have occurred in several areas. Experts nationwide have reviewed the data in a vain search for patterns, he said. “He’s all over the map,” he said.

A task force of Charlottesville, Albemarle and University police are working on the case. According to a recent announcement, the task force “strongly believes that individuals in the community may have important information in this matter that has yet to be provided to law enforcement.” They urge anyone with information to call Crimestoppers at (434) 977-4000. Callers may remain anonymous. You may also send e-mail to wanted@albemarle.org.

There is a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
Police have offered several tips for community members. They include:

• Avoid walking alone.

• Walk in groups whenever possible.

• Avoid dark, isolated areas.

• Trust your instincts about a person or situation. If you feel uncomfortable, immediately call 911.

In several of the cases, the assailant has gained access to a dwelling, then surprised his victim when she returned home. Police offer these additional suggestions:

• Keep doors and windows locked.

• Use outdoor lighting.

• Trim shrubs and trees to limit possible hiding spots.

• Call 911 immediately if you see a prowler; someone peeping into a residence; an individual watching, photographing or filming an area; or any suspicious behavior.

University officials are getting the word out to incoming students, as well as to returning students who may have been lulled into a false sense of security while away for the summer.

An e-mail has been sent to all students, faculty and staff from Leonard W. Sandridge, executive vice president and chief operating officer.

Incoming students and their parents were warned about the rapist’s activities during summer orientation sessions, and University Police have met with resident staff in University housing. Fact sheets have been posted throughout the University community, including academic buildings, residence halls, libraries, buses and Safe Ride vans, and athletic facilities.


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