NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WJZ) —He’s suspected in more than a dozen sexual assaults up and down the eastern seaboard beginning in 1997 in Prince George’s County, and now he’s behind bars.
Derek Valcourt has the latest on the case.
The judge set bail at $1.5 million, just days after Aaron Thomas apparently tried to commit suicide and confessed to some of the attacks.
Aaron Thomas, 39, was escorted out of court after his first appearance before a judge in New Haven Monday afternoon. Prosecutors believe he’s the East Coast rapist pictured in sketches, responsible for some 17 rapes over 14 years. The attacks began in Maryland and stretched to Virginia, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
He was arrested last week after electrical billboards went up around the East Coast. The website designed to catch him garnered 51,000 hits in one week.
“Ultimately the billboard and the media campaign led to a detailed tip that helped to crack the case,” said Ronald Hosko, FBI.
In court Monday, prosecutors told a judge that when police arrested Thomas, he asked, “What took you so long?”
They said Thomas confessed to several of the rapes, telling prosecutors he has “a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality when it comes to women.”
Some of the first rapes he’s accused of took place in Maryland’s Prince George’s County back in 1997, 1998 and 2001.
“Music to my ears that he had been arrested,” said prosecutor Paul Ebert.
Ebert, the top prosecutor in Prince William County in Virginia, says Thomas will face five life sentences if convicted for the Halloween 2009 rapes of two teenage girls he’s accused of dragging into the woods and raping at gunpoint.
“This case concerned me almost as much as the D.C. sniper case did,” Ebert said.
Thomas was an unemployed truck driver who was living with his girlfriend and their 5-year-old son.
Sources say detectives followed Thomas and pulled his DNA off of a discarded cigarette; it matched 12 of the 17 rapes.