DNA evidence linked to Pennypack rapist

Robert W. Palen

Based on newly dis­covered DNA evid­ence, Phil­adelphia de­tect­ives be­lieve they have iden­ti­fied and loc­ated a seri­al rap­ist re­spons­ible for as­sault­ing three Ta­cony wo­men in Pennypack Park between 2010 and 2012.

Robert W. Palen, 38, is jailed in Dane County, Wis., on charges re­lated to the Dec. 30 rape and beat­ing of a wo­man in Madis­on. Po­lice ar­res­ted Palen that night in the nearby town of Middleton, Wis. They also re­covered DNA evid­ence from the crime scene and entered it in­to a na­tion­al DNA data­base.

On March 11, a Phil­adelphia de­tect­ive con­tac­ted Madis­on po­lice to re­port that the DNA sample from the Wis­con­sin case matched DNA re­covered from the un­solved Aug. 3, 2011, rape and beat­ing of a 24-year-old wo­man on the 8100 block of Cresco Ave. in Holmes­burg. Phil­adelphia in­vest­ig­at­ors be­lieve that the same of­fend­er was also re­spons­ible for sim­il­ar un­solved at­tacks on Ju­ly 16, 2010, and May 15, 2012.

In the 2010 case, an un­known man in a white pickup truck ap­proached a 26-year-old wo­man in the area of Tor­res­dale and Long­shore av­en­ues and offered her a ride, po­lice said. The vic­tim will­ingly entered the truck and was driv­en to the 8000 block of Cresco Ave., where the man as­saul­ted her be­fore flee­ing. His­tory re­peated it­self about 13 months later when a man match­ing the same de­scrip­tion in a white truck ap­proached a 26-year-old wo­man near the same street corner, drove her to the same wooded loc­a­tion and raped and beat her there be­fore flee­ing.

In the 2012 in­cid­ent, a man match­ing the same de­scrip­tion and op­er­at­ing a blue minivan ap­proached a wo­man at Tor­res­dale Av­en­ue and Dis­ston Street. The vic­tim ac­cep­ted his of­fer of a ride and was driv­en to 8000 Cresco, where the driver raped and beat her be­fore flee­ing. The at­tack­er iden­ti­fied him­self to the vic­tim as “Rob” or “Bob,” said po­lice, who re­leased a com­pos­ite sketch of the un­known rap­ist. Po­lice did not con­firm spec­u­la­tion that the vic­tims had been work­ing as pros­ti­tutes on Tor­res­dale Av­en­ue.

Palen lived in Phil­adelphia be­fore mov­ing to Wis­con­sin last year, ac­cord­ing to Madis­on po­lice. On Dec. 30, he al­legedly went to the Madis­on home of a wo­man he had met via the In­ter­net and at­tacked her. He is charged with stran­gu­la­tion and suf­foc­a­tion, second-de­gree sexu­al as­sault with use of force, bat­tery and dis­orderly con­duct in the case. Palen has not been form­ally charged with the Phil­adelphia rapes. ••

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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