“East Coast Rapist” Suspect Arrested in Connecticut

Recent efforts to find the East Coast Rapist may have paid off.

The U.S. Marshals Service said a suspect was arrested in Connecticut. He's already been charged with five counts, including rape and abduction, for the last incident -- on Halloween 2009 in Dale City, Va. -- Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert said, according to InsideNova.com.

Authorities identified the man as 39-year-old Aaron Thomas.  He is being held in New Haven on $1 million bail Saturday.  In Connectictut, he's been charged with sexual assault and risk of injury to a minor.

U.S. Marshal Joe Faughnan in New Haven said Thomas was detained at about 3 p.m. Friday. He is being held by police for questioning, New Haven police spokesman Officer Joseph Avery said.

Police in Prince William County came up with a lead of a man in New Haven Thursday. He was followed, and when he threw a cigarette butt in the street, police and mashals picked it up for DNA analysis, NBC New York's Jonathan Dienst reported.

The man is believed responsible for rapes and other attacks on 17 women since 1997. The most recent occurred in Virginia in 2009, where he was almost caught when a victim was able to send a text message for help to her mother. In that incident, two 17-year-olds and a 16-year-old were approached by a masked gunman in the 4300 block of Dale Boulevard on Halloween and ordered into the woods. He raped the 17-year-olds, but the 16-year-old was able to contact her mother.

DNA has linked 12 of the attacks.

The suspect sometimes wore a black mask or hooded sweatshirt to conceal his face. After approaching the victim, the suspect would ask the victim for money, giving the victim the impression that she was being robbed, but the man would not take anything after the assault was over, police have said.

Authorities recently launched a website dedicated to finding him and started posting sketches of the suspect on electronic billboards in states where attacks occurred including Connecticut, Virginia, Maryland and Rhode Island. Fairfax County Detective John Kelly said the website generated 44,000 hits in 12 hours after it was launched late last month.

Thomas grew up Berryville, Va., lived in Woodbridge from 2000-2007 and also lived in Prince George's County, Md.  In the area where Thomas was picked up, neighbors recalled him riding his bicycle through the streets.  Those who live in the well-to-do neighborhood said Thomas would ask to do yard work for them.

Investigators said they have cleared more than 700 suspects.

Fan, Follow and Text: Get the latest from NBCWashington.com anytime, anywhere. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Sign up for our e-mail newsletters and get breaking news delivered right to your mobile phone -- just text DCBREAKING to 622339 to sign up. (Message and data rates may apply.)

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us