L.A. serial rapist may have struck for 36th time, police say
Los Angeles Police Department investigators believe a woman attacked this month in South L.A. is the 36th suspected victim of the elusive "Teardrop Rapist."
Los Angeles police Det. Jesse Alvarado said the 29-year-old woman was walking to work alone about 5:30 a.m. June 15 when she was approached by a man wearing a hoodie on Naomi Avenue near 25th Street.
After trying to talk to her, the man stuck a handgun in her face and forced her into an alley, where he attempted to sexually assault her. But the man became frightened when a vehicle pulled into the alley, and he fled on foot.
"The early morning, a woman alone and everything else suggests this is the man known as the Teardrop Rapist," said Alvarado, who added that previous victims believe they saw a teardrop-shaped mark near one or more of the suspect's eyes. "He is an opportunist. Many of his attacks are attempts because he flees the minute there is a chance he'll get caught. That is what has made him so hard to catch."
The serial rapist has been linked to 35 attacks in Los Angeles dating to February 1996, Alvarado said. The most recent attack previously attributed to the suspect occurred in November, when a 15-year-old girl in southwest L.A. was pulled into a yard and sexually assaulted during the early morning hours.
Investigators say 11 attacks have been linked to the rapist through DNA alone and the remainder by other evidence. Alvarado said the LAPD recently reexamined older cases and identified eight robberies they now attribute to the rapist.
Robbery Homicide Division Capt. Bill Hayes said the rapist has struck from Hollywood to South L.A.'s Manchester Boulevard, but a geographic analysis has determined that he may live near L.A. Memorial Coliseum.
Detectives on Thursday canvassed the area bounded by Exposition Boulevard on the north, 50th Place on the south, Denker Avenue on the west, and the 110 Freeway on the east. They handed out thousands of fliers. Hayes said the victims were 14 to 41 years old, and 33 of them were Latina.
The assailant is described as Latino with brown eyes and brown hair, 5-feet-2 to 5-feet-6, and 130 to 170 pounds. However, investigators acknowledge differing descriptions because of a variety of caps and bandannas. Many victims have reported that their attacker had a teardrop-shaped mark, scar or mole on his face, but the two women attacked most recently did not see it.
He typically carries a gun and targets early morning walkers but has been known to wield a knife, Alvarado said.
"He flees on foot but may get there by bus or car," he added.
A $50,000 reward is being offered in the case. Detectives ask anyone with information to email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (877) 526-3247.
-- Richard Winton
Photo: Police sketches of the so-called Teardrop Rapist suspect over the years. Credit: Los Angeles Police Department