Rapist may be targeting Asians Police note similarities in 3 assaults on women

February 21, 1997|By Jill Hudson | Jill Hudson,SUN STAFF

Howard County police released new information yesterday about a rapist who they say may be targeting Asian women in Ellicott City.

Police learned early this week that a 46-year-old Asian woman who lives in the Pine Orchards area of Ellicott City was raped Dec. 6 when a man broke into her apartment and assaulted her at knifepoint. The attack is the third sexual assault that police are attributing to the attacker.

The woman did not report the rape at the time, police said, and filed a report only after detectives from the Sex Crimes Unit contacted her during the course of investigating two previous rapes in the area.

"I'm very concerned to learn that there's a criminal at large who may be targeting specific women," said Vincent Yang, a county human rights commissioner. "I'm also very concerned that police are not giving out much information to the community."

Sgt. Steven Keller, a police spokesman, acknowledged that the department had known about the third attack since Monday but had not released the information until a Sun reporter asked about progress in the investigation Thursday.

"This is an old incident," Keller said.

Alerting community

Yang said yesterday that members of the Asian-American community should get together to disseminate the information about the rapes among themselves.

"I think this situation has really caught us by surprise, but we have to do something about it," he said. "We need to talk to the police -- and they need to talk to us -- to heighten the alert."

Sheila Begg, a crisis-intervention coordinator at the Howard County Sexual Assault Center, said Asian-American and Asian women who may not speak English fluently might be reluctant to to seek help from the police if they are raped.

"For a lot of cultures, the shame of rape is significant," Begg said. "I'm sure it's a major problem that we just don't get to help them."

Police reported this month that the man who raped a 38-year-old woman at knifepoint in her home in the Wheatfields community Feb. 5 may have sexually assaulted another woman 10 months '' earlier.

Details on assaults

An investigation into the 65 rape cases reported in Howard County between 1995 and 1996 led police to discover that the Wheatfields assault was similar to one reported in the Pine Orchards area of Ellicott City in April, police said.

Police said all three of the victims were Asian women who lived within five to seven miles of one another.

The women gave police similar descriptions of their assailant: a white male of medium to heavy build, 6 feet tall, wearing a ski mask and gloves. The rapist in each incident was armed with a folding knife and attacked the woman when she was home alone.

Police have said that there were similarities in the rapist's method of operation, but declined to provide details that they said might jeopardize the investigations.

Pub Date: 2/21/97

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