Man seized in February sex assault Suspect is arrested in California in Wheatfields attack

Police had issued an alert

Suspect not charged in two other cases, authorities say

March 25, 1997|By Jill Hudson | Jill Hudson,SUN STAFF

A former Ellicott City resident was arrested in San Diego last week and charged with the February rape of an Asian woman in the Wheatfields community -- an attack that police linked to two other rapes of Asian women in the same area.

Police said Tak Wha Tsang, 38, was arrested Thursday evening at his home in San Diego on a Howard County fugitive warrant. He is accused of the Feb. 5 assault on a 38-year-old woman who lived in the normally quiet Ellicott City community.

That attack, and two others in the past year by a masked man wielding a knife, caused police to issue a community alert last month that a rapist appeared to be targeting Asian women in the Ellicott City area.

Tsang has not been charged in the other two cases, said Sgt. Steven Keller, a police spokesman -- though the victims in those attacks lived in the same Ellicott City apartment complex as the suspect.

Sheila Begg, a crisis-intervention coordinator at the Sexual Trauma, Treatment, Advocacy and Recovery Center in Columbia, said the arrest of a suspect was good news for Asian-American and Asian women in Howard County.

"I imagine it [the arrest] will make a lot of people feel very relieved in the community," she said yesterday.

Vincent Yang, a member of the county's Human Rights Commission, said he hoped that the arrest would mean an end to the fear that has gripped the Asian community for almost two months.

"I was very concerned for my wife and her friends who live in the county," Yang said. "I don't like the idea of her being targeted because the Asian population in Howard County by and large are law-abiding citizens."

Keller said Tsang will be charged in the February attack with multiple sex offenses, including first- and second-degree rape, robbery with a deadly weapon and various burglary and assault charges.

Tsang, who lived in the Pine Orchard Apartments on U.S. 40 before moving to California early this month, waived extradition at a San Diego hearing yesterday and will be returned to Howard County this week, Keller said.

Police acted on tip

According to police, Howard County detectives -- working on a tip -- searched Tsang's red 1988 Ford Festiva, which was found abandoned in a parking lot in the Pine Orchard apartment complex. In the car, police found packaging for handcuffs similar to those described by the Wheatfields rape victim.

When San Diego police arrested Tsang, they discovered gloves, handcuffs and a pair of shoes similar to those worn by the attacker in the Feb. 5 assault, Howard County police said.

Police said the three women who were attacked are Asians who lived within five to seven miles of each other.

The victims of the earlier assaults -- a 46-year-old woman was raped Dec. 6 and a woman of unspecified age was attacked 10 months earlier -- also lived at Pine Orchard Apartments.

Similarities reported

At the time, the women told police that their attacker was a white male of medium to heavy build, 6 feet tall and wearing a ski mask and gloves.

The rapist in each assault was armed with a folding knife and attacked each woman when she was home alone.

Police said the women reported similarities in the attacks but declined to provide details.

Police never mentioned handcuffs in their descriptions of the attacks.

Pub Date: 3/25/97

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