Updated at the bottom: The Teardrop Rapist is back, and he's raping Angelenos.
Originally posted at 9 a.m.
This guy is almost like L.A.'s notorious Grim Sleeper, without the murder streak:
A 40-something Latino man with a teardrop tattoo beneath his left eye has been snatching girls from dark alleyways throughout South Los Angeles for at least 13 years, says the LAPD.
Although he's been on the cops' "Most Wanted" list for much of that time, the so-called Teardrop Rapist has successfully evaded authorities and continued to rape (or attempt to rape) as many as 28 victims during his impressive criminal career.
Here's the last time we heard about him, almost an entire decade ago in June 2003:
At approximately 6:30 a.m., a 15 year-old female was walking in the area of Hoover Avenue and Gage Avenue. A male approached her and asked for directions. When she stopped to assist him he produced a handgun. The suspect directed the victim to an alley, where he attempted to sexually assault her. The suspect fled on foot prior to completing the sexual assault. Additional Information: Suspect wore a dark hooded sweatshirt, green bandana, dark colored beanie to cover head, or black baseball cap.
At that time, LAPD investigators had logged 20 similar rapes (or attempted rapes) by a man fitting the same physical description. Meaning eight additional victims must have come forward since 2003 -- prompting the LAPD to finally release an updated sketch of the rapist's face at a press conference scheduled for noon today.
Although the teardrop tattoo has always been his trademark, cops were unsure, in the past, whether he had one or two teardrops, or whether he may have removed them altogether:
The suspect has either one or two teardrops tattooed under his right or left eye. The suspect has also been described as having a mustache and has possibly attempted to remove his tattoo.
Today's sketch could help clear that up.
The serial rapist's stomping grounds -- last we heard -- were the 77th Street, Newton, Southeast, Southwest and Wilshire Divisions. (Very similar to the Grim Sleeper.) He was known to creep up on young victims in the dark early-morning hours, where he would try to rape them at gunpoint.
In 2008, when LA Weekly reporter Christine Pelisek revealed that a prolific South L.A. serial killer had been one step ahead of the LAPD for decades, the public criticized the police for devoting less time to the Grim Sleeper's capture than they would, say, a murderer roaming Beverly Hills.
We'll update with all new details on the Teardrop Rapist released at today's 12 p.m. press conference.
Update, 1 p.m.: The rape of a 15-year-old girl near Adams and Normandie in the wee hours of November 10, 2011, has been linked to the Teardrop Rapist.
Detectives from the Sexual Assault Section of the LAPD's Robbery Homicide Division linked DNA evidence from the November attack to existing DNA they believe belongs to the man in question.
From today's presser:
On November 10, 2011, around 5:30 a.m., a 15-year-old female Hispanic walking in the area of Adams Boulevard and Normandie Avenue was approached by a male who asked her for directions. He then produced a handgun and forced her to walk a short distance to a yard where he sexually assaulted her. Within weeks of the attack, it was linked by DNA evidence to a series of sexual assault cases that had previously been investigated by RHD.
Detectives identified 28 similar incidents of sexual assault that occurred between February 1996 [Ed note: Not 1999, as they originally believed] and the most recent attack. The assaults have been linked through DNA evidence and/or the suspect's distinct mode of operation.
The unincorporated Firestone-Florence District of L.A. County has now been added to the rapist's territory. Police say at least three assaults occurred in that area.
As more details emerge, the more vague the rapist's description and M.O. become:
All of the crimes occurred in the early morning hours between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. The suspect typically walked up to each victim and engaged them in conversation before producing a knife or firearm. He would then walk them to a secluded area and sexually assault them. The victims ranged from 14 to 41 years of age.
The suspect is a male Hispanic, 27 to 40 years old, with brown eyes and brown hair. He stands between 5 feet 2 inches and 6 feet tall and weighs between 130 and 200 pounds. He has also been described as having a light complexion, a possible teardrop tattoo(s) or scar(s) below one of his eyes and a mustache. He may also have attempted to remove his teardrop tattoo. The suspect has been seen wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt and a green bandana. To cover his head, he has worn a black baseball cap or dark- colored beanie.
A spreadsheet of all his different police sketches, over the years, is equally confusing:
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Any additional victims, or anyone with information regarding the rapist, is urged to call detectives at (877) 527-3247.