WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly two months after launching a publicity campaign to catch a man suspected in a spate of sexual assaults and a slaying, the FBI says authorities have received multiple good leads and tips but have not identified any suspects yet.
Investigators have met with some men, and a handful — fewer than 10 — have voluntarily submitted DNA samples, said Lindsay Godwin, a spokeswoman for the FBI’s Washington field office. She said that analysis is ongoing.
“We’re continuing to get very strong tips and good phone calls — and that’s all law enforcement, not just FBI,” she said.
Local and federal authorities unveiled the publicity blitz in mid-December. It included a website and digital billboards up and down the East Coast to solicit tips about a man believed to be connected to nine attacks on women between 1991 and 1998. The first eight attacks occurred in Montgomery County, Md. Seven were sexual assaults; the other was an attempted sexual assault. The final attack believed to be connected to the same suspect was a murder in Washington’s Georgetown neighborhood.
Seven of the attacks have been linked through DNA, but authorities believe all nine are connected based on similarities in the methods and victims.
The campaign is similar to ones that helped lead to last year’s arrests of Boston crime boss James “Whitey” Bulger and Aaron Thomas, a man suspected in rapes along the East Coast. Though they hope to generate solid tips, authorities also acknowledge that they’re not sure if the man is still in the region, in prison somewhere, or even still alive. No additional assaults have been connected to the man since 1998.
The first attack occurred on May 6, 1991, when a woman who had just returned from a business trip was accosted inside her home.
Detectives say the man, believed to be in his late 20s to late 30s at the time of the attacks, would enter the victims’ homes — sometimes while children were inside — surprise the women by throwing a blanket or towel over their heads and overpower them with his strength. The victims ranged in age from 18 to 41.
The final attack authorities have linked to the man is the Aug. 1, 1998 killing of Christine Mirzayan, a young scientist who was raped and murdered while walking home in Georgetown from a cookout.
A website devoted to the case includes a sketch of a potential suspect, a timeline, a podcast and other information.
Authorities receive additional tips whenever “America’s Most Wanted” airs an episode on the investigation, Godwin said. She said authorities have also re-run the billboards in multiple states because of some of the responses received through the tip line.
“Anytime we receive DNA voluntarily, it helps us exonerate them and we are able to move on to another tip, another individual, somebody else that can help us,” Godwin said.
Authorities are offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information leading to the arrest of the man.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)