With clues in the case running thin, investigators today looked to the public for help in identifying a man believed responsible for up to 11 sexual assaults and numerous robberies throughout Southern California, most recently in Riverside.
"This man is capable of great violence. There is no reason to believe that he has just stopped," Riverside police Detective Aurelio Melendrez told reporters during a briefing at the police department's Magnolia station.
Investigators from eight law enforcement agencies believe the man has perpetrated crimes in their jurisdictions. Detectives are aware of assaults between 2003 and 2009, the most recent being an attack on women at a massage parlor on the west end of Riverside.
"In one assault, the suspect chased a 55-year-old woman down the hall of a business and slammed her into a wall, breaking her collarbone and punching out five of her teeth," Melendrez said.
The assailant's preferred targets are day spas, massage parlors and similar businesses primarily run by women, according to the detective.
"His description and modus operandi points to the same guy in each case," Melendrez said. "The victims say he has a friendly face. He contacts an employee at a business, gets them comfortable with talking to him, then asks if he can go inside to use the bathroom or get something to drink."
Melendrez said the man looks over the inside of the business to find a common area where he can corral employees, then goes about forcing them at gunpoint into the room. According to the detective, the women are disrobed, stripped of their personal belongings and often sexually assaulted.
"He's a big guy. In some cases, the women have been beaten pretty severely," Melendrez said.
According to Riverside police Chief Sergio Diaz, a common thread in each attack is that the victims are foreign nationals -- Asian or Hispanic -- and not inclined to speak with law enforcement.
"There is an aspect of shame that makes these people reluctant to come forward," he said, adding that attacks have probably gone "under-reported" as a result.
Robberies and assaults attributed to the suspect have occurred in Chino Hills, Corona, Fontana, Gardena, Industry, Jurupa Valley, Montclair and Riverside.
The multi-agency task force formed to identify the suspect is led by Riverside police investigators, and the Riverside County District Attorney's Office will handle any future prosecution.
According to Supervising Deputy District Attorney Mike Soccio, DNA collected from the crimes has enabled authorities to create a profile of the suspect, and that distinct profile provided the D.A.'s office with sufficient evidence to file a 31-count criminal complaint against the man in absentia. Charges include kidnapping, forcible rape, armed robbery and related counts.
Melendrez said the suspect has obviously not been arrested since the DNA profile was entered into the FBI's Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, nearly 10 years ago.
"He's apparently able to compartmentalize other parts of his life and live in a normal state of mind a lot of the time," Melendrez said.
The assailant is described as black or of mixed race, about 6 feet tall, between 240 and 260 pounds, with short black hair and brown eyes.
Anyone with information was asked to contact Melendrez at 951-353- 7119, or Detective Rita Cobb at 951-353-7120.
—City News Service