Police hunt for Northeast sexual predator

An uniden­ti­fied sex pred­at­or linked to two pri­or at­tacks in May­fair seems to be ex­pand­ing his ter­rit­ory and grow­ing more vi­ol­ent, a Phil­adelphia po­lice in­vest­ig­at­or said on Fri­day in the af­ter­math of a third bru­tal as­sault with­in 33 days.

Dur­ing a news con­fer­ence at the po­lice de­part­ment’s Spe­cial Vic­tims Unit, Capt. John Darby re­por­ted that a 20-year-old wo­man was badly beaten and sexu­ally as­saul­ted last Wed­nes­day night be­hind Our Lady of Ransom Par­ish in Castor Gar­dens after a man grabbed her from the 6700 block of Roosevelt Blvd. Po­lice be­lieve that the at­tack­er was the same man who as­saul­ted two oth­er wo­men in their 20s in May­fair on April 25 and May 17, based on sim­il­ar­it­ies in the three cases, al­though de­tect­ives haven’t ruled out the pos­sib­il­ity of mul­tiple of­fend­ers.

“We have iden­ti­fied a pat­tern, a series of in­cid­ents in the May­fair and Ox­ford Circle [sic] sec­tions of the city in the North­east,” Darby said. “This is a series of as­saults on young wo­men, late at night or [in the] early morn­ing hours. … There is enough sim­il­ar­ity in these cases cer­tainly to cause us alarm. We want to bring to the at­ten­tion of the pub­lic the fact that these in­cid­ents are oc­cur­ring.”

In each case, the at­tack­er wore a black sweat­shirt, us­ing the hood to hide his fea­tures from po­ten­tial wit­nesses and even from his vic­tims, who have been un­able to provide in­vest­ig­at­ors with spe­cif­ic de­scrip­tions. In each case, he ap­proached vic­tims from be­hind. In two of the in­cid­ents, he used an un­known ob­ject to threaten the vic­tims. In all cases, he is­sued verbal threats, too.

“That’s con­sist­ent in each of the cases. There are threats to kill or harm the vic­tim if they fail to co­oper­ate,” said Darby, who fur­ther char­ac­ter­ized the at­tack­er as “ex­tremely ag­gress­ive.”

“He’s an ex­tremely vi­ol­ent char­ac­ter. In two of the cases, the vic­tims were able to quickly get away from him. … We just don’t know where these at­tacks would lead if there wasn’t some in­ter­ven­tion by the vic­tim or someone else on those par­tic­u­lar cases,” Darby said.

The first as­sault oc­curred on Fri­day, April 25, at about 11:45 p.m. The 23-year-old vic­tim was walk­ing along the 3300 block of Tyson Ave. to­ward a friend’s house when a man ap­proached her from be­hind, placed a sharp ob­ject to her throat and threatened to harm her if she did not co­oper­ate with him. The man dir­ec­ted her to a rear drive­way of the 3300 Dis­ston St., where he sexu­ally as­saul­ted her, then fled.

A second at­tack oc­curred on Sat­urday, May 17, at about 12:50 a.m. The 29-year-old vic­tim was walk­ing home from a con­veni­ence store when she cut through a rear drive­way for the 3200 block of Wel­ling­ton St. Video of the in­cid­ent re­leased by po­lice shows the man pur­su­ing the un­sus­pect­ing vic­tim past sev­er­al private sur­veil­lance cam­er­as and mo­tion-sensor flood lights un­til he fi­nally ap­proaches her from be­hind and grabs her by the neck, push­ing her out of the frame.

“The video was pretty com­pel­ling and shows the level of vi­ol­ence. This guy just goes at her al­most im­me­di­ately, pushes her be­hind the prop­er­ties and there is an at­temp­ted sexu­al as­sault,” Darby said.

Ac­cord­ing to an ini­tial po­lice re­port, the wo­man screamed for help and struggled to es­cape as the man placed an ob­ject to her neck and at­temp­ted to re­move her cloth­ing. The com­mo­tion drew the at­ten­tion of a neigh­bor, who chased the flee­ing at­tack­er as far as Row­land Av­en­ue.

The phys­ic­al vi­ol­ence reached an­oth­er level in the May 28 in­cid­ent, which oc­curred at about 10:30 p.m. along busy Roosevelt Boulevard. The vic­tim, 20, had just ex­ited SEPTA’s Route 20 bus at Long­shore Av­en­ue and was walk­ing to meet a male friend who was a couple of blocks away, Darby said.

“A male ap­proaches her, tackles her to the ground, pulls her be­hind one of the build­ings at Our Lady of Ransom Church and phys­ic­ally and sexu­ally as­saults her,” Darby said.

As the wo­man struggled, the at­tack­er “strikes her sev­er­al times in the face, caus­ing a la­cer­a­tion that re­quired su­tur­ing,” the cap­tain ad­ded. “Later on, hos­pit­al treat­ment had to be sought.”

There is no com­pos­ite sketch of the man be­cause the at­tack­er hid his face in all three cases. His race is un­known, al­though vic­tims have de­scribed him as either white or black with light skin col­or. He is about 6 feet tall with broad shoulders and a me­di­um build, Darby said. He has worn a dark hooded sweat­shirt in all three cases. In two cases, he wore dark sweat­pants. In the latest case, he wore shorts, Darby said. Po­lice are un­aware of any dis­tin­guish­ing marks or tat­toos on the at­tack­er.

Po­lice ad­vise wo­men to avoid walk­ing alone at night and ask for the pub­lic’s help in keep­ing their neigh­bor­hoods se­cure. Wo­men should walk in groups or have someone drive them to their des­tin­a­tions. They should carry cell phones and be ready to call 911 im­me­di­ately if something seems sus­pi­cious. Neigh­bors can re­main on the lookout for sus­pi­cious people walk­ing around or loiter­ing in an area as if look­ing for a vic­tim.

“We need the com­munity to step up and say, ‘We’re not go­ing to al­low this to hap­pen,’ ” Darby said.

To view sur­veil­lance video of the May 17 at­tack, vis­it the Phil­adelphia Po­lice chan­nel on You­Tube.com. Call the Spe­cial Vic­tims Unit at 215-685-3251, 3263 or 3264 to re­port in­form­a­tion. Ask for Of­ficer Lichten­hahn or Lt. Mc­Fad­den. ••

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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