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Texas sexual assaults appear to target sorority's alumnae

October 25, 2011 | 10:03 am

Surveillance
Texas police are searching for a man who allegedly broke into the homes of four former members of the same sorority and sexually assaulted them.

The alleged attacks -- all on alumnae of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority -- took place this year in the Dallas area, in the north Texas cities of Plano, Coppell and Corinth, police said. Plano police released a surveillance video  (later aired by CNN and other media outlets) shot in April showing the suspect, a heavyset black male in his late 30s to mid-40s. Investigators declined to say where the video was filmed.

The alleged victims were all black females in their mid-50s to mid-60s. They say the suspect had information suggesting that he knew them, but investigators say they believe the man was a stranger who had been casing their homes in preparation for his attacks.

The suspect may have obtained an old sorority directory or tracked would-be victims with Delta Sigma Theta license-plate holders, jewelry or other items, Corinth Police Capt. Greg Wilkerson told The Times.

“We’re confident that that’s a common denominator between the four victims — what we don’t know is how he’s obtaining the information,” Wilkerson said.

All of the assaults occurred in "residential settings" between 9:15 p.m. and 4 a.m. when the victims were alone, Wilkerson said. The alleged attack in Corinth, 35 miles northwest of Dallas, took place Oct. 14. 

Identifying the suspect has proven difficult both because the victims were often asleep when the man entered their homes and because he attempted to conceal his identity, Wilkerson said.

Corinth police and other departments investigating the assaults were processing physical evidence Tuesday to determine if they have DNA from the suspect, Wikerson said.

“Once we get the lab results back and determine if there is DNA, we’ll reach out to other agencies and see if they match,” he said. Authorities will also compare any DNA obtained in the assaults to that in the CODIS database to determine whether it matches that of any known offenders.

Wilkerson described the suspect as weighing from 275 to 300 pounds, between 5-foot-7 and 5-foot-9 inches tall, balding or with a shaved head, and a distinctive "swagger." The suspect appears to wear glasses in the surveillance video, although he did not wear them during the Corinth attack, Wilkerson said.

The victims are members of different chapters of the sorority, Wilkerson said. Police have advised members of the sorority in the Dallas area to be on the alert, not to wear sorority insignias or to go out alone at night.

The sorority's Washington-based headquarters issued a statement this week urging members in the Dallas area to take precautions.

“While it is not yet confirmed that these victims were targeted because of their affiliation with the sorority, we are erring on the side of caution and are advising our members in the Dallas area to take the necessary precautionary measures," Cynthia M.A. Butler-McIntyre, Delta Sigma Theta's president, said in the statement. "We encourage members to be alert, remain aware of their surroundings and to call the police if they see anything suspicious or feel threatened.”

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-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Houston

Image: Screenshot from surveillance video released by Plano police.

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