Keen eyes, from both a Hyattsville City Police officer and one of the victims of a suspected serial rapist, helped police identify 24-year-old city resident Edwin Xavier Rivas as a suspect in a number of area rapes and sexual assaults.
Rivas, , is now considered a suspect in at least four sexual assaults in the vicinity of the Northwest Branch Hiker Biker Trail in Hyattsville and Mount Rainier. So far, he has been charged in relation to two of them.
County police filed a host of charges against Rivas for a Jan. 28 rape in Mount Rainier, including first and second-degree rape, first and second-degree sex offenses, second-degree assault and sodomy, according to court records. In that incident, a woman was approached while walking in the 3300 block of Buchanan Street in Mount Rainier by a man with a knife. She was then forced into some bushes where she was raped, according to police.
The Hyattsville Police filed second-degree assault charges and fourth-degree sex offense charges for a Feb. 23 incident in Hyattsville in which a woman was attacked shortly after midnight on Jamestown Road and dragged into the woods. She was spared further harm when she spooked her attacker by yelling out to passerby. City police also charged Rivas with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
Yesterday, Rivas was arraigned on those charges in Prince George's County District Court and ordered held without bond, according to the Washington Post.
Rivas' last known address was 6119 39th Place in Hyattsville. Court documents list another address as 219 Audobon Avenue in New York City.
Hyattsville City Police said they honed in on Rivas after a chance encounter with an officer and after being recognized by one of his victims.
According to Sgt. Chris Purvis, public information officer with the Hyattsville City Police Department, a city police officer first noticed Rivas' resemblance to composite sketches while conducting an unrelated call for a domestic situation in early May. At that point, city police took a picture of Rivas which was then sent on to the city detective in charge of the investigation.
Then, on May 17, the city police received a tip from the victim in the Feb. 23 incident saying that she spotted her attacker in a store on Hamilton Street. Purvis said that police were able to view video images of the suspect at the store. They realized that the man seen in the store was the same man photographed by city police earlier in the month.
"We go back and review footage, and we look at the picture, and our guys kind of put two and two together and they say that it appears to be the same guy," said Purvis in an interview.
At that point, Purvis said that Rivas' image was then sent on to Prince George's County Police where the victim in the Jan. 28 Mount Rainier rape identified Rivas from a photo lineup.
At that point, arrest warrants were filed. Almost immediately, on May 19, Rivas is spotted, again by his victim, and again on Hamilton Street, where he was arrested without incident.
Purvis said that the Hyattsville City Police have forwarded all of their information on Rivas to the Maryland-National Capital Park Police.
"We hope and pray that we can work some of those cases out, but we'll see," said Purvis.
For those pedestrians and cyclists who use the Northwest Branch Trail, Purvis still advises caution.
"I would still use the same precautions as we were using before," said Purvis. "Be aware of your surroundings, walk in twos. We still haven't closed all the cases, just so you know."