A former Howard County resident has been indicted in the alleged abduction, assault and robbery of a woman in Prince William County, Va., eight years ago and the prosecutor said the case might be related to a string of similar incidents in the state.
Among the cases authorities have linked to the incidents is the 1996 abduction and killing of Baltimore doctoral student Alicia Showalter Reynolds.
A Prince William grand jury returned an indictment Monday against Darrell David Rice, 36, on abduction with intent to defile, robbery and malicious wounding charges in the February 1996 incident involving a 38-year-old woman.
Rice, formerly of Columbia, is serving a federal prison sentence for the 1997 attempted kidnapping of a Canadian cyclist in Shenandoah National Park. He is scheduled to be released in July 2007, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons Web site.
Rice also was charged in 2002 with killing two female hikers in the park in May 1996 but authorities have said that DNA evidence from the scene did not match Rice or the victims and the charges were dropped.
In the Prince William County case, the woman told authorities that a man stopped her on Route 234 and told her sparks were coming from her car, police said. He tried to assault her after she accepted his offer of a ride, police said.
After Reynolds' disappearance March 2, 1996, several women contacted authorities to say they had encountered a man, later dubbed the Route 29 Stalker, who stopped them along the road and told them he saw smoke or sparks coming from their cars.
Virginia state police have said the reports were similar, and witnesses told authorities that they saw Reynolds, a 25-year-old student at the Johns Hopkins University, talking with a man along Route 29 in Culpeper, Va., before getting into his pickup.
Reynolds' body was discovered more than two months later in Lignum, Va., a rural area about 15 miles from the site of the abduction.
Yesterday, Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert said the cases, including the one that led to Mondays indictment, all have a common scheme and pattern though the Prince William case did not occur on Route 29 but on Route 234, several miles away.
In the Prince William County case and in some of the others, victims identified Rice, the prosecutor said.
"One of the most telling circumstances is that once he was arrested in , there were no more stalking incidences," Ebert said.
A Virginia State Police spokesman said this week's indictment does not mean closure in the Reynolds case. Rice has not been named a suspect, said Sgt. Gary Settle, although state police are "working hard" on the case and evidence is undergoing laboratory analysis.
"I would say we are aware of Rice's past and his existence," Settle said. " We may not ever be in a position to name him as a suspect."
Reynolds mother, Sadie Showalter, was circumspect yesterday, saying that she and her husband were "hopeful but haven't heard anything at this point."