Ten years on, Philadelphia’s serial park rapist continues to elude identification and capture, but police refuse to quit their search for him.
To mark the anniversary of the unknown predator’s first attack, authorities on Friday re-distributed wanted fliers and composite sketches of the rapist, who is also wanted for the 2003 murder of 30-year-old medical student Rebecca Park.
DNA evidence has linked four cases to the same perpetrator. Three of the incidents occurred in 2003 in Fairmount Park in close proximity to the Schuylkill. Then the predator disappeared.
Four years later, on Aug. 11, 2007, he resurfaced in Pennypack Park in Holmesburg, near the pavilion and picnic site at Frankford and Solly avenues. A 29-year-old woman was walking on a bike path along the creek shortly after 8 p.m. when a man pulled her into the woods, raped her and stole a small amount of money. The attacker fled on foot along the bike path toward Welsh Road.
Capt. John Darby, commander of Philadelphia’s Special Victims Unit, said at the time that the thug brutalized the victim.
“The offender spent some time with the victim. This was not an ‘attack and run,’ ” Darby said.
The victim found her way out of the woods and with the help of a good Samaritan contacted police. She was treated and released from an area hospital.
Victims in earlier attacks described a similar method.
On April 30, 2003, a 21-year-old woman was jogging near Kelly Drive and Fountain Green Road when a man grabbed her, pulled her to the riverbank and raped her at knifepoint. The victim survived and described her attacker to police.
Park was not so fortunate. On July 13, 2003, she went jogging and disappeared. Detectives found her body four days later along a running trail near the 3500 block of Conshohocken Ave., not far from her home. She had been raped and strangled. Other joggers supplied police with a description of a suspicious man they had seen in the area.
On Oct. 25, 2003, a 37-year-old woman was jogging along West River Drive about a mile south of Falls Bridge when a knife-wielding man tried to drag her to the riverbank, but she fought him back and suffered defensive wounds to the neck, chest and hand, police said. She, too, offered a description of the predator.
The suspect consistently has been described as a Hispanic man with a Latino accent, medium and muscular build, about 5 feet 8 inches tall, dark complexion, black hair, a thin moustache, a thin “jaw-line” beard and bushy eyebrows.
Witnesses or victims have described him as having a “widow’s peak” hairline, and wearing an earring in the left ear. In two cases, he fled on a metallic-purple 10-speed bicycle.
In the Pennypack Park rape, he wore matching light-blue basketball-style shirt and shorts with white trim on the shirt and white vertical stripes on the sides of the shorts. He also wore a gold chain with a crucifix pendant and had scars or blemishes on his upper left arm and torso.
Call the Special Victims Unit to report information about the case at 215-685-3251, or the Homicide Unit at 215-686-3335. ••
Reporter William Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or firstname.lastname@example.org