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'Twilight Rapist' suspect arrested in Edna

By KBell
Jan. 9, 2011 at 10:02 p.m.
Updated Jan. 8, 2011 at 7:09 p.m.

Billy Joe Harris, 53, was taken into custody early Saturday morning after Edna police responded to a medical emergency alert from an elderly woman, the Texas Department of Public Safety said in a news release.

PREVIOUS ATTACKSThe "Twilight Rapist" is thought to have been involved in attacks in five counties across more than 150 miles. He is suspected of at least three assaults in Yoakum in 2009.

Here's a timeline of the Yoakum attacks and other developments in the investigation:

Jan. 21, 2009: 66-year-old woman assaulted in her home.

Feb. 27: 79-year old woman sexually assaulted in her home.

Nov. 9: 67-year old woman, the same woman attacked in January, assaulted in her home after moving.

Dec. 14: Texas Rangers release first description of man dubbed the "Twilight Rapist" and report link to 12 cases in five counties.

Jan. 2010: Twilight Rapist Task Force created, and at least one Texas Ranger is assigned to investigate the attacks full time.

Jan. 8, 2011: Billy Joe Harris, 53, of Missouri City, arrested and linked to five of the "Twilight Rapist" attacks

Source: Previous Advocate reports

EDNA - The Edna Police Department arrested a man thought to be the "Twilight Rapist" early Saturday after he broke into the apartment of a 59-year-old Edna woman.

Police suspect Billy Joe Harris, 53, of Missouri City, of being involved in the rape, attempted rape or burglary of as many as 12 elderly women, ranging from age 65 to 91, who mostly lived alone. The serial attacks, most of which happened in 2009, led to the suspect being dubbed the "Twilight Rapist."

After his arrest, DNA linked Harris to five of those assaults, according to a press release Sunday from the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Harris was arrested after a medical alarm activated at an apartment in the 1200 block of Miracle Drive. Edna police and EMS responded to the scene and noticed a window screen had been removed, according to a press release from the Edna Police Department.

Police heard a woman calling for help from inside the apartment, and a man fled when officers attempted to enter.

The DPS release identified the officers as Mike Yaws and Robert Chastain.

A witness said he saw a police car and ambulance arrive at Miracle Manor, an independent-living facility across the street from the Edna High School track. The witness said a man attempted to flee north through the apartment complex and was apprehended shortly after.

Harris was arrested on suspicion of burglary with the intent to commit a felony other than theft, according to the press release. He is in the Jackson County Detention Center on a $500,000 bond.

The victim was not seriously injured, but was taken by ambulance to a Victoria hospital for examination, according to release from Edna police.

Harris, who works as a non-commissioned employee for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Rosharon, is suspected of first attacking a 66-year-old Yoakum woman in January 2009. In January 2010, Gov. Rick Perry requested the creation of The Twilight Rapist Task Force, headed by the Texas Rangers, to investigate related attacks again in Yoakum and Luling and in Leon, Bell, McLennan and Falls counties.

"He has no apparent criminal record, so he wasn't in the state criminal DNA database," said DPS spokesman Tom Vinger. "So unless he was arrested on another crime and came on our radar, he would have been pretty difficult to catch."

Vinger praised the Edna police, as well as a lot of the "work behind the scenes."

"That's pretty extraordinary to get the DNA (Saturday) and have the DNA match by the next day," Vinger said. "People worked all night to do that."

After the arrest, a Texas Ranger flew aboard a DPS aircraft to Jackson County to obtain the DNA and assist with the investigation. The task force will continue investigating, and more charges are expected, according to the DPS release.

"There could be links to other crimes we're investigating," Vinger said. "We're investigating along with other task force members to gather up and see what other crimes we can definitively link him to."

The investigation involved the DPS, Yoakum, Luling, Moody and Edna police departments, sheriff's offices in Leon, Falls, McLennan, Jackson and Bell counties; the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the U.S. Marshals Service and the FBI.

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