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Serial rapist linked to Yoakum elderly assaults

By BY SONNY LONG - SLONG@VICAD.COM
Dec. 17, 2009 at 6:17 a.m.
Updated Dec. 18, 2009 at 6:18 a.m.


YOAKUM - Yoakum residents are concerned a serial rapist is linked to three assaults of local woman since January.

"I have been concerned and this makes me even more worried," said Yoakum resident Jean Williams, 60. "When I go somewhere, I try to be more aware. I am a little afraid to go places by myself."

Williams said she is even considering dying her hair dark so she looks younger and won't fit the general description of the man's elderly victims.

Assaults on two elderly women were linked Tuesday to the "Twilight Rapist," a man sought in connection with 12 incidents spread across six counties and more than 150 miles.

"Many of these cases have been linked by physical evidence, including DNA," Texas Ranger Chief Tony Leal said in a Department of Public Safety news release. "All of the victims have been elderly women ranging in age from 65 to 91 who live alone."

The cases include those in Yoakum, one occurred in DeWitt County and the other two in Lavaca County, as well as in Luling and in rural Leon, Bell and Falls counties between January and November. At least eight of the cases include sexual assaults or attempted sexual assaults, said DPS spokesman Tom Vinger.

The rapist has been described as a thin, young, dark-skinned man between 5 feet 6 inches and 6 feet tall, Leal said.

"We realize this is a vague description, but it's the best we have at this point," said Vinger. "There are enough specifics that help us narrow down the tip pool."

Vinger said it was difficult to get accurate descriptions from the victims, many of whom are elderly, and the assaults often occur in the dark.

YOAKUM REACTION

Yoakum Police Chief Arthur Rogers admits the cases are baffling.

A 66-year-old Yoakum woman was assaulted in January then again in November after moving.

A 79-year old woman was sexually assaulted in February.

"In my 38 years in law enforcement this has been one of the toughest I've dealt with," Rogers said.

"Covering such a broad area makes it difficult. We have to coordinate and make sure each agency is covering all the bases," Rogers said. "We stay in contact with the Texas Rangers."

Investigators believe the offender has a sexual preference for elderly women, and therefore may not be in a romantic relationship with a woman his own age.

The suspect has demonstrated his familiarity with each of these communities and apparently has the freedom, either in personal life or at work, to move about during the late evening and pre-dawn early morning hours, according to the news release.

In some cases, there was a reported burglary of the victim's residence prior to the sexual assault. It is believed the rapist prowls the victims' neighborhoods before striking in the early morning hours. In many cases, he has disabled the victim's telephone, according to the news release.

"I'm afraid he may end up killing somebody. He has psychological problems," said Ron Law, a regular at H&H Cafe & Bakery in Yoakum.

His dining partner, Rick Sanford also of Yoakum, hopes law enforcement is closing in on the man.

"I hope they are taking a long look at delivery drivers, traveling salesmen, those kind of people," Sanford said.

MULTI-AGENCY EFFORT

The law enforcement effort is multi-agency led by the Texas Rangers, Vinger said.

"We wanted to establish a coordinated effort to move these investigations forward," Vinger said. "It's clear that he is a calculating guy and not just walking in off the street and committing random crimes."

In addition to the Rangers, the FBI and U.S. Marshal service are involved as well as local law enforcement agencies.

"We are assisting the local agencies and helping tie everything together. That's our role," Vinger said. "There could be more cases out there that we are not aware of."

AFFECTS EVERYONE

Ronda Liles, 61, has lived in Yoakum for more than 25 years.

"Growing up, my boys rode their bikes all over town. I always felt like this was a safe place," Liles said. "When something like this happens, we lose that secure feeling."

Vinger said vigilance is necessary.

"As a family member or as neighbors, we can play a role in helping," he said. "Check on your elderly family member or neighbor regularly. Keep an eye out for them. Help make security arrangements."

Rogers urged Yoakum's elderly women to keep in touch with friends and relatives. He offered other suggestions.

"Keep your outside lights on. Don't answer the door if you don't know who it is," Rogers said. "If you see anything suspicious, call the police and let us check it out. We'd rather make 1,000 calls of nothing than one call of someone being hurt."

Leal said these cases touch everyone in some way.

"Each of these victims is someone's mother, grandmother or neighbor, and we need the public's help in identifying the suspect responsible for these crimes," Leal said.

One elderly woman paying her bill at the counter at H&H lives in a neighborhood where one of the assaults occurred.

Her anxiety was obvious.

"I'll talk to you," she said. "But please don't put my name in the paper."

"I get in the house real fast. I try not to go out after dark," she said. "There are a lot of porch lights on now in the neighborhood and we watch out for each other."

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