Suspected East Coast Rapist Refuses Plea, Headed to Trial

Tuesday, Nov 13, 2012  |  Updated 8:35 PM EDT
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The man dubbed the East Coast Rapist was expected to enter a plea Tuesday, but in a Prince William County courtroom, Aaron Thomas expressed hesitation. News4 Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey explains what happens next.

Julie Carey

The man dubbed the East Coast Rapist was expected to enter a plea Tuesday, but in a Prince William County courtroom, Aaron Thomas expressed hesitation. News4 Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey explains what happens next.

The man believed to be the East Coast Rapist surprised the court Tuesday by hesitating when he was asked to enter a guilty plea. Now, he's headed to trial.

Aaron Thomas had been expected to take responsibility for a 2009 attack on three teenage trick-or-treaters in Prince William County. However, in court in northern Virginia Tuesday, Thomas paused when he was asked how he pleaded, News4 Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey reported.

"I don't know which way is right and which way is wrong," Thomas told the judge when asked a second time.

The judge then called a recess, after which Thomas's attorneys announced the plea deal wasn't going forward.

The case will now go to trial Jan. 14.

“I'm not surprised he did not enter a plea of guilty because he's been erratic in his behavior from the start, but on the other hand we’re ready to go forward,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Ebert said.

In custody, Thomas has repeatedly cut his wrists and smeared his blood on the walls of his cell, Carey reported. He has claimed he had an alternate personality -- Erwin. The prosecution's mental health expert found Thomas was either "feigning or greatly exaggerating" symptoms. Thomas refused to be seen by the defense psychologist last month, and his attorneys notified the court that sanity would not be raised as an issue.

In a story published Sunday, Thomas acknowledged to the Washington Post that he was the East Coast Rapist, saying, "I don't think I'm crazy but something is wrong with me."

Thomas, who appeared in court wearing an orange prison jumpsuit with his hands and feet shackled, is accused of forcing the trick-or-treaters into the woods and raping two of them on Halloween night. He was expected to plead guilty to rape and abduction charges.

“I was hopeful we would be able to have a disposition without having to involve the victims in this case and having them relive Halloween of '09,” Ebert said.

Two of the victims are in college.

Thomas is also expected to enter a second guilty plea in a different case in Loudoun County at the end of the month.

Both cases carry life sentences.

Thomas has been tied to 17 attacks over longer than a decade from the D.C. area up to Connecticut.

Stay with NBCWashington.com and NBC4 for more.

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