FBI Uses Digital Billboard in Hopes to Catch Rapist

FBI

A new digital billboard campaign launched today aims to help investigators catch the “East Coast Rapist,” a violent serial offender who has attacked or attempted to attack a dozen women in Maryland, Virginia, Connecticut, and Rhode Island for more than a decade.

The billboards feature composite sketches of the rapist and a toll-free telephone number where people can call to provide information. “These billboards give local police departments and the FBI an added edge to identify, locate, and apprehend the subject,” said Ronald Hosko, special agent in charge of the Criminal Division in our Washington Field Office. “The public is the most important tool law enforcement has for solving crimes like this.”

Billboard seeking suspected East Coast Rapist
Digital billboards featuring composite sketches of the offender are now running in Connecticut, Maryland, Rhode Island, Virginia, New Jersey, New York, and Delaware.

The East Coast Rapist attacked his first victim in February 1997 in a Maryland suburb of Washington D.C. He approached the 25-year-old victim on a bicycle as she walked home from work. The attacker began a conversation but then pulled a gun, forced the woman into nearby woods, and raped her.

Since then, 11 more attacks or attempted attacks have occurred. The female victims have been white, black, and Hispanic. The rapist generally approaches victims outdoors on foot and threatens them with a weapon—usually a knife or a handgun. He sometimes wears a black mask or hooded sweatshirt to conceal his face. He typically asks for money, giving victims the impression they are being robbed. But after the assault, no robbery occurs.

FBI ViCAP poster
FBI poster detailing the case.
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The attacker is described as a black male between the ages of 20 and 40 who is 5’7″ to 6′ tall, weighs between 150 and 200 pounds, and has a medium to muscular build. In addition to a mask and hooded sweatshirt, he has worn a variety of clothes during attacks, including green overalls, a green camouflage coat or black jacket, dark sweatpants or blue jeans, tan boots or light-colored tennis shoes, a black hair rag, and a brown or black hat.

The rapist’s last known attack was in Woodbridge, Virginia on Halloween night in 2009. He raped two teenagers on their way home from trick-or-treating.

All of the East Coast Rapist’s attacks have been linked by DNA, said John Kelly, a detective with the Fairfax County Police Department in Virginia. “We have the DNA linking the offender, but we need someone to recognize and identify him.”

The digital billboards will run in Maryland, Virginia, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, where the attacks and attempts have occurred, as well as in New Jersey, New York, and Delaware.

EastCoastRapist.com website
The Fairfax County Police Department launched a website, eastcoastrapist.com, to publicize the case and collect tips.

The FBI started its national digital billboard initiative in 2007 with the help of outdoor advertising companies that provide free access to more than 1,500 digital billboards in more than 40 states nationwide to publicize investigations and to provide public safety information. Since the start of the initiative, at least 39 cases have been solved as a direct result from tips from the public.

Today’s campaign includes partnerships with a number of local police departments involved with the East Coast Rapist investigation. In addition to the billboards, Fairfax County Police Department has launched a dedicated website, www.EastCoastRapist.com, which provides composites and additional information about the case.

We need your help to capture this armed and dangerous serial offender. If you have any information regarding the East Coast Rapist, call 866-411-TIPS. Maryland’s Prince George’s County Police Department is offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information related to the investigation.

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