A 14-year-long search for the man dubbed the 'East Coast Rapist' ended in the arrest of a 39-year-old Connecticut man, authorities announced.
Aaron Thomas, of New Haven, was taken into custody on Friday at his home by the U.S. Marshal’s Fugitive Task Force, according to the New Haven Police Department.
Thomas is accused of assaulting at least four women in the Hybla Valley area and eight others.
New Haven Police Lt. Julie Johnson said in a press conference Saturday morning that Thomas has been charged in Prince William County as a fugitive from justice with two counts of rape, abduction, and use of a firearm in commission of a felony in the first degree. Thomas was also charged in New Haven with sexual assault in the first degree.
Prince William County Police and New Haven Police both had active arrest warrants for Thomas. Johnson said Prince William County Police Detective Cameron Crouch was to be commended for his work along with Connecticut detectives and the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force in leading to the arrest.
Earlier this week, authorities set up a website and placed billboards up and down the East Coast in efforts to catch the man. It’s not immediately clear if that campaign led to his capture.
The ‘East Coast Rapist’ is accused of 12 attacks on women, most of which occurred in the late 90s and early 2000s in Fairfax County, Prince George’s County, Maryland, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.
Authorities linked the same man to all the attacks through DNA.
According to police, the following crimes took place in or near the Hybla Valley area:
The first incident occurred around 7:30 p.m. on December 28, 2001 on the 3700 block of Rolling Hills Avenue. A 29-year-old woman waiting for a bus was approached by a man who was smoking a cigarette. He asked her when the next bus was coming, then threatened her with a knife and forced her behind an electrical box at a nearby apartment complex, where he raped her. The victim said that the man threatened to “come for her” if she became pregnant.
On Nov. 20, 2000, a 35-year-old woman was approached by a man asking for directions at the entrance to her townhouse community at Timber Forest Drive and Edsall Road. When he got close enough, he put her in a headlock and attempted to rob her. The woman was a female military officer and was able to fight back and take away the man’s knife. He ran away, but police were able to obtain DNA from the knife blade and link this case to others.
On Jan. 13, 2000, an 18-year-old woman was walking home from a community center at about 7:30 p.m. on the 7300 block of Fordson Road when she was approached from behind. The man put a knife to her throat and asked for money. He then forced her to a wooded area and raped her.
It was June 19, 1999 at just after 11 p.m. when 19-year-old a woman walking down Richmond Highway near Memorial Street passed by a man in a phone booth. After passing him by, the man put the woman in a headlock and threatened her with a knife. He forced her to the back steps of a realty office and raped her.