Crossbow rapist stalks Prince George's community Northridge residents beef up security as police wait for a break in the case

September 13, 1993|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Staff Writer Staff writer Peter Hermann contributed to this article.

Residents of Bowie's Northridge community, a portrait of serene suburban security, lately find themselves confronting a strange, new neighbor: terror.

They live in $200,000 and $300,000 houses surrounded by old trees that once made the new subdivision look established, settled and even more safe. But these days the trees seem to cast sinister shadows over the fine lawns where a rapist in a black mask carrying a crossbow has walked in the dead of night.

"We're not supposed to cut down the trees, but come this fall, we are going to be out here with a chain saw," said one woman who would only give her name as Susan.

The rapist, who has struck twice in the neighborhood in the last three weeks and a total of four times in Prince George's County since June 7, apparently hides among the trees, waiting for an opportunity to move in, county police say.

He struck first June 7 in Glenn Dale near Bowie, then Aug. 3 in Greenbelt, and Aug. 16 and Sept. 5 in Northridge. In every attack, he has used the same methods.

He breaks in through a sliding glass door between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. and creeps up the stairs to the room where the woman, who all but once has been alone, is asleep. He awakens her, ties her up and rapes her. In three of the attacks, he carried a rifle or shotgun.

Like Susan, many of those in the community along the Route 193 corridor said they were too scared to allow their names to appear in print. Vans from security alarm companies and patrolling police cruisers are a constant reminder of the masked man's presence.

Meanwhile, the residents of these homes, as well as other Bowie neighborhoods, are going beyond traditional security methods. Some are attaching cans or bells to fish line and stretching it across doorways. One woman said she placed a baby monitor near the sliding door to her home, hoping that it would pick up the noise if someone tried to enter.

Others say they are keeping their children in the same bedroom with them, and many are talking about buying guns.

Susan, whose husband is a Washington, D.C., police officer, said her neighbors ask their advice about what kinds of guns to buy.

"People are petrified," she said.

"We moved out here for the trees and the schools," said a 32-year-old woman, who declined to give her name.

"You can't beat crime, but who would have thought it would happen in this neighborhood?" said the woman, who is married to a Prince George's County police officer and has two small children.

Prince George's police say they have received hundreds of calls from nervous Bowie residents who want security checks done on their homes, or want to know more about the attacks and the rapist.

But there is little police can tell worried residents about the rapist.

Because he has worn a black ski mask in all but one of the attacks and because he has awakened his victims from a sound sleep, their descriptions have been sketchy.

They say he is black, about 5 feet 8 inches tall with a thin build. He has a "pot belly," and is dressed in black from head to toe: black combat boots and black gloves that one victim described as driving gloves with the knuckles cut out. He is in his late 20s. All of his victims have been in their early 20s to early 30s.

No one has seen him entering or leaving any of the houses or driving away, so there is no license plate number or car description.

And although investigators have grilled the victims about everything from where they shop for food to where they get their cars fixed, they have not been able to find a common denominator.

"If we could determine how he selects his victims, it would be a very big break in the case," said police spokeswoman Cpl. Diane Richardson. "We need a tip or some kind of break in the case."

But detectives are not completely in the dark, she said. Because allbut one of the victims have been alone in the house, they believe he watches who comes and goes at different times of the day before he attacks.

In the most recent incident, the 24-year-old woman had a roommate who was out of town for the weekend, neighbors said.

The rapist also seems to be "fascinated" with animals, Corporal Richardson said, noting that in the first attack he shot the woman's miniature collie with the crossbow and in "another assault, he seemed to have been disappointed when he heard the victim didn't have a dog."

Although police seem to know little about how he chooses his victims, there are common factors in the design of their homes.

None of them had a fenced yard. The second attack occurred in a townhouse community where every home but the one he chose had a stockade fence, said Cpl. Steve Folkee, a burglary prevention officer at the Bowie district station.

All of the homes are multi-level dwellings that allow the attacker to break into a door far enough away from the bedroom windows so that someone sleeping inside might not hear glass breaking above the hum of air conditioning units.

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