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East Coast Rapist Suspect Identified

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rapist billboard, Aaron Thomas

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A man believed to be responsible for rapes and other attacks on 17 women since 1997 and dubbed the East Coast Rapist has been arrested in Connecticut, the U.S. Marshals Service said.

The suspect, identified as Aaron Thomas, 39, was taken into custody in New Haven at his home without incident by the US Marshal’s Fugitive Task Force. He was captured Friday afternoon based on a lead from authorities in Virginia, said U.S. Marshal Joe Faughnan, who couldn’t provide further details.

No charges had been filed, he said.

“We’re still working the case,” he said. “At this point we’re trying to put everything together, and there’s been no formal
charges at this time.”

The East Coast Rapist eluded authorities for years despite committing a string of high-risk outdoor attacks, law enforcement officials say.

In a recent effort to generate new leads in the case, authorities posted sketches of the suspect on electronic billboards
in states where attacks occurred — Virginia, Connecticut, Maryland and Rhode Island — and in neighboring states.

Police also set up a website about the case at eastcoastrapist.com. Detective John Kelly in Fairfax County, Va., said the website generated 44,000 hits in 12 hours after it was launched late last month.

The attacker wore a mask or hooded sweatshirt to conceal his face in some attacks, investigators say. He typically approached women outdoors on foot and threatened them with a knife or a handgun, they say.

The last known attack occurred on Halloween night in 2009, when two teenagers on their way home from trick-or-treating in Woodbridge, Va., were raped, authorities say.

The cases have been linked by DNA. Investigators say they have cleared more than 700 suspects.

On Saturday at 10 a.m. the New Haven Police along with other involved agencies will be holding a press conference at Police Headquarters, 1 Union Ave in the 3rd floor Lobby Area. No other information will be given until Press Conference.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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