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Published: Thursday, 3/11/2010

Toledo police: Rapist-robber may be getting bolder

BY BRIDGET THARP
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Surveillance photo of rapist Surveillance photo of rapist
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Police are looking for a man they believe is becoming more brazen in his attacks on women.

The same man is likely responsible for sexually assaulting a woman and robbing at least four others at gunpoint in the last nine days, Toledo police Capt. Ray Carroll said yesterday. In two of the incidents, the suspect hid in the backseat of the victims' unlocked vehicles. He waited until she began driving away before confronting her with a gun and demanding she empty her wallet or drive to the nearest ATM.

Now, police worry the crimes will escalate. He no longer covers his face with a red bandana, as he did in the first two robberies. And the sexual assault occurred just 23 hours after the first time he is believed to have threatened sexual violence during one of the robberies.

"In the first couple [robberies], he probably felt nervous, but he feels pretty comfortable now," Captain Carroll said, adding: "He has a handgun. He's escalated to rape. He's capable of more."

Police suspect the same man in five cases: the sexual assault at Collingwood Boulevard and Palmwood Avenue late Tuesday; a backseat robbery at 330 West Central Ave. early Tuesday; a robbery outside apartments in the 2400 block of Collingwood Boulevard about 1:15 a.m. Monday; another backseat robbery in the 700 block of South Avenue about 9:20 p.m. March 3, and the holdup of a Subway restaurant in the 1500 block of Broadway about 9:45 p.m. March 2.

About 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, a woman, 32, was leaving McDonald's at Collingwood and Dorr Street when the suspect, identified by police from an earlier surveillance video, approached and demanded cash, Sgt. Sam Harris said.

When she produced only a few dollars, the suspect forced her to drive him to the parking lot at the old Washington School at Collingwood and Palmwood Avenue. He forced her to engage in sexual acts before fleeing on foot, Sergeant Harris said. The victim was treated at Toledo Hospital.

In hopes of identifying the suspect, police released surveillance photos of the man taken Tuesday before he allegedly tried to rob a female customer outside the Central Market, 330 West Central.

The video shows the man look over at the victim - the only one shopping in the convenience store - as he buys a small item about 12:05 a.m. Tuesday. He walked to her van parked by the front door, entered the unlocked vehicle by the rear passenger door, and waited for her in the backseat.

The victim told police the man pointed a gun at her and demanded she drive to an ATM. When she couldn't get money from a machine at Central and Collingwood, he threatened to force her to perform sexual acts.

What she did next might have saved her life, Captain Carroll said. She refused the man's order to drive to an alley and drove to an ex-boyfriend's home nearby and yelled for help. The suspect fled on foot when her former boyfriend came out of his house.

At least one other victim also fought back. A woman told police the suspect chatted with her about her apartment lease before pointing a gun at her and demanding money in the parking lot of her apartment on Collingwood on March 8. She turned over about $15 but refused his demands to drive to an ATM, saying she didn't have a bank card.

She indicated she had money in her apartment, and he followed her inside. She was struck in the head as she struggled to close the door to her unit before the suspect could follow.

Captain Carroll said the victims who fought back did the right thing. "You better fight for your life," he said. "Just lay on your horn. Don't take your chances. You've got to survive. Once you get in a car or are forced into a car, you're at his mercy. You'd rather fight for your life in the mall parking lot than in the woods somewhere."

Contact Bridget Tharp at:

btharp@theblade.com

or 419-724-6086.



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