Database helps lead police to rape suspect

Similarities in attacks on prostitutes found

May 13, 1999|By Devon Spurgeon | Devon Spurgeon,SUN STAFF

With the help of a computer database, Anne Arundel County police have apprehended a suspect in the rapes of two prostitutes in the northern part of the county.

Melvin Leroy Lewis, 31, of the first block of Mount Olivet Lane in South Baltimore has been charged with rape, assault and sodomy. He is being held in the Anne Arundel Detention Center without bond.

The rapes occurred in early March. In each case, the rapist sodomized his victims at knifepoint.

Detective Robert Aurand of the county police sex crimes unit noticed the pattern in the rapes and Sgt. Tom Wilson, his supervisor, suggested he contact Baltimore police, who had compiled information on potential serial rapists.

The information led Aurand to Lewis, police said.

Baltimore police had interviewed 195 prostitutes last year -- almost a third of whom said they were raped or sexually assaulted by a client -- and asked them to describe the details of the assaults. The information was logged into a database that can be searched by physical description of the suspect, words uttered during the attack, even the type of underwear worn by the assailant.

The database also contains details of all reported rape and sex offense cases in Baltimore since 1996 and allows police to match seemingly unrelated crimes against prostitutes and other women.

The interviews also have yielded eyewitnesses for homicides and detailed information on crimes committed against prostitutes.

"It is my belief that the serial rapist uses street prostitutes as his laboratory specimens to practice his domination tactics," said Anne Arundel Medical Center spokeswoman Mary Lou Baker, who engineered the program.

In this case, according to Aurand, the common thread was the violent sodomy the prostitutes experienced at knifepoint. Using the database and interviews with prostitutes in Baltimore, Aurand found another prostitute who told police she had been assaulted by a man fitting Lewis' description. After one of the more recent victims identified Lewis in a photo lineup, police searched his house and car. They arrested him April 27.

Pub Date: 5/13/99

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