DNA, shoe print offered as rape trial evidence First of 2 trials begins for man charged in 3 Ellicott City attacks

October 28, 1997|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

The first of two trials set for the man police say was a serial rapist targeting women of Asian origin opened yesterday in Howard County Circuit Court.

Tak Wha Tsang, 39, is being tried initially in the last of three Ellicott City attacks that occurred between between April 1996 and February of this year. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

The other two cases are scheduled for trial Dec. 8.

Tsang, who has been jailed without bail since March, sat calmly, dressed in a business suit, as Assistant State's Attorney Jeannie Cho described the Feb. 5 attack and told of DNA evidence and a shoe print that she said will link him to the crime scene.

She said the rapist wore a black mask and black gloves. Pointing to Tsang, seated next to his public defender, she declared: "The man in the mask is that man."

Cho said the 38-year-old victim was at home in her Ellicott City apartment after working as a hair stylist in Owings Mills. She was wearing a bathrobe, preparing for a shower, when she was attacked in her bedroom by the masked man, who threatened her with a knife.

The assailant stripped off the robe, took pictures of her on the bed, handcuffed and raped the woman, and robbed her of the money in her purse.

"At that moment, every woman's nightmare came true," Cho told the jury of six men and six women.

Tsang's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Richard S. Bernhardt, declined to make an opening statement, instead urging jurors to keep an open mind.

Tsang -- who formerly lived in Ellicott City's Orchard Park Apartments -- was arrested in March in San Diego on a fugitive warrant charging him in the February rape case. Police say he moved to California after the alleged attacks.

Court documents say the rapist was diligent about cleaning the room after the attack. He washed himself and ordered the victim to wash herself, the records say.

But yesterday in court, Cho said that police found semen in the carpet in the victim's bedroom -- and DNA from that semen matched Tsang's, Cho said.

According to papers in the court file, Tsang stated during a police interview: "If my blood matches the DNA, then you've got the right man. If it doesn't match, then I'm a free man."

Cho said police found a box for handcuffs with Tsang's fingerprint on it inside the car he left abandoned at his Ellicott City apartment complex. Inside his California apartment, police found a sneaker that matched the characteristics of a shoe print from the crime scene, she said.

In the first attack, police charged that Tsang raped a woman on April 22, 1996. The victim was assaulted after she was was handcuffed and had a cloth placed over her head.

Before leaving the woman's apartment, the attacker took her passport, telephones and $200, and instructed her to take $5,000 out of her bank account and leave the money at a drop-off location, threatening to hurt the woman's daughter if she did not comply, police said.

Police said the woman immediately removed the money from her bank account and left the cash at the specified location. It was unclear from court records what happened to the money.

The other attack police linked to Tsang occurred nine months later. He is accused of breaking into a woman's apartment, taping her hands behind her back and sexually assaulting her, and stealing $2,000 and a diamond ring valued at $2,000.

Pub Date: 10/28/97

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