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. ••