Police Urge Extreme Trail Caution After Fifth Rape

Similarity of suspect descriptions has police thinking they might be dealing with a single suspect, but no hard evidence yet links crimes.

Another sexual assault on the Northwest Branch Hiker/Biker Trail has police urging extreme caution to those traveling the trail near the West Hyattsville Metro Station and Chillum Community Park.

The latest incident involves a woman raped on the trail over the weekend. 

According to information just released by the Maryland National Capital Park Police, the incident occurred on Friday, April 20 at around 5 p.m. near the Chillum Community Park. Police say the victim was walking when she was approached by her assailant who was bearing a handgun. The man forced the woman into the woods and sexually assaulted her before fleeing in an unknown direction. 

The suspect is described as a Hispanic man in his mid 20s, standing between 5 feet 5 inches and 5 feet 7 inches, weighing between 170 to 190 pounds. The suspect had a medium to stocky build and wore a slight moustache. He had hazel eyes, dark evenly cut hair. At the time of the incident he was wearing a white tshirt bearing an unfamiliar black design, blue jeans and black low-cut tennis shoes. 

Anyone with information on this incident is asked to contact the Maryland-National Capital Park Police's detective labs at 429-5645. 

This is the fifth sexual assault to occur in the vicinity of the trail since January, according to information released by police agencies. The descriptions provided by the suspects have some striking similarities. 

On March 20, a woman was kidnapped and raped in the 5600 block of Ager Road. . Police described the suspect as a Hispanic man with a beige-almond complexion, standing approximately 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighing about 160 pounds. 

On March 27, a woman was walking on the trail when she was approached by a man wielding a knife who Police described the suspect in that incident as standing between 5 foot 5 inches and 5 foot 7 inches tall, weighing approximately 160 pounds. He was wearing a black jacket with a full length zipper and two lower pockets. He was also wearing black pants, a white shirt with short sleeves and a black hat. 

Police said the suspect in that incident spoke Spanish with an El Salvadorian accent. 

On March 29, police urged residents to be cautious on the trail after receiving . In a public release, police described the assailant to be a Hispanic man in his 20s, described as standing between 5 foot 5 inches and 5 foot 7 inches and weighing about 150 pounds. 

The similarity between the suspect descriptions has caught the eye of investigators, according to Chris Purvis, public information officer for the Hyattsville City Police Department. 

When asked if police think all these incidents have been committed by the same man, Purvis said, "It's possible. "We don't have anything specifically linking them together other than the descriptions. But yeah, we've noticed that."

Purvis encouraged area residents to use the trail with caution. 

"Walk in groups, there's safety in numbers," said Purvis. "Also, take a good look at the sketch, and if you see anyone matching that description, call the police."

Gretchen Ward Waller April 26, 2012 at 07:12 PM
Emil, why do they need to be "undercover?" I would feel a lot safer with uniformed police officers present.
DRC April 27, 2012 at 01:47 AM
How do you know there aren't???? Are they supposed to be everywhere all the time?
DRC April 27, 2012 at 12:34 PM
Gretchen, I'm sure we'd all feel better with an obvious police presence but this criminal needs to be caught! I'm pretty sure they're using both methods,as well as some we don't even know about in an effort to make us safe. Emil, more caution on our part while using these trails is NOT slop. How many men and women are using iPods these days while out walking or jogging....I do it myself. But whenever I do, I have someone with me who isn't wearing any of those devices so they can hear what's going on around us. In my case that would be oncoming cars but the same would be true of footfalls coming up around you.
Emily Smith May 01, 2012 at 09:13 PM
This is a lackluster police response to a growing community concern. There should be--and should have been--a significant increase in police presence around the area of the attacks. This makes one wonder if there would be a similar, somewhat laizze faire, response to these incidents if they had occurred in another part of the county with higher incomes or different demographics.
Gretchen Ward Waller May 02, 2012 at 12:32 AM
I couldn't agree more Emily!


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