A popular television show is taking a Chandler serial rapist primetime, hoping the public will help end his reign of terror.
The Chandler Police Department confirmed last week that Fox’s America’s Most Wanted will film a special segment on the sexual predator, who has attacked at least five teenage girls in their Chandler homes since June 2006.
“We’ve had great coverage in the media but we’re hoping some national exposure will cast a wider net and gain that one piece of information that has been missing from our leads,” said Sgt. Dave Austin, who is heading up a 12-man task force to catch the rapist, adding that producers from the show have kept tabs on the rapist for months and decided in November to film a segment. Austin said the five victims won’t speak in front of the camera but some family members most likely will, however, their faces will not be shown.
“The victims are still struggling with the aftermath because it’s such a devastating event,” Austin said. “All of the investigators carry that pain with them and we want to solve this case for those victims and their families. They need that closure.”
Austin said a detective from the department will fly to the program’s call center in Washington D.C., to field phones when the episode airs. The segment has yet to be scheduled on KSAZ-TV (Channel 10).
Department keeping rapist in public eye
Police have been using myriad of methods to keep the serial rapist in the public eye, including the launch of a Web page on the department’s Internet site in September. The page contains all press releases pertaining to the cases, composite sketches and descriptions of the suspect, tips on keeping kids safe and links to Silent Witness.
Thanks to a local businessman, police also helped erect a billboard in August on the south side of the Santan Freeway near McClintock Drive.
Last month police stopped about 200 cars in the area of the 1600 block of West Temple Street from 4 to 6:30 a.m. to see if anyone heard or saw anything Nov. 8 when a 15-year-old girl was awaken just after 6 a.m. by an intruder who matched the rapist’s description.
Lt. Vance Lunt, who heads the department’s investigation unit, said Tuesday police could not physically link evidence to the incident. However, he said police believe the attack was committed by the serial rapist based on the description given by the victim and the method of operation.
On Tuesday, the department hosted a town hall meeting at Anderson Junior High, 1255 N. Dobson Road. Mayor Boyd Dunn, Chandler Police Chief Sherry Kiyler and Sgt. Paul Penzone of the Phoenix Police Department, who works for Silent Witness, briefed residents on the case and fielded questions.
Approximately 200 people showed up at the Dec. 4 meeting and it was evident the rapist had the community on edge.
Debra Navarro said she now accompanies her 13-year-old daughter to Andersen for her morning cheerleading classes.
She said she was upset that there wasn’t a district or police presence at the school during the early-morning hours.
“It’s still dark and there’s no supervision,” Navarro said. “He’s probably scoped them out already.”
Lunt replied that just because Navarro couldn’t see patrol cars or officers, it didn’t mean they weren’t in the area.
Kiyler announced at the meeting that the Chandler Police Department and Silent Witness have doubled the amount of the reward from $25,000 to $50,000. The amount originally started at $10,000.
Penzone said the $50,000 will buy exposure and send a message to the streets.
“Information on the streets is very valuable,” he said. “I know I’m preaching to the choir but I need the choir to take the message to the streets.”
Penzone asked residents to follow their instincts if their gut tells them esomething is wrong or out of place.
“A composite sketch is well and good, but what catches people are behaviors and the smallest thread is what makes the biggest difference.”
Rapist logs hours of manpower
Austin said police have received close to 2,000 tips on the rapist and investigated close to 1,700 of those leads. He said the case most likely has taken up more manpower than he’s ever seen in his 20-year history with the department.
“I can’t remember another case that has taken up so much time and manpower,” Austin said.
“At one time we’ve had the entire detective division (60 people) working on leads.”
Police describe the suspect as a Hispanic male, 28 to 40 years old, short and stocky with a muscular build, dark hair and a thin mustache. He also speaks English with a Spanish accent.
Austin said he believes the rapist is still lurking in the community based on tips.
“Yes, we do believe he’s still in Chandler because we still have lots of leads coming in regarding suspicious behavior,” Austin said. “I won’t be satisfied until we catch and identify him.”
He noted that it’s important for residents to communicate with police and their children.
“Children should be aware of their surroundings and talk to their parents if they see something out of the ordinary,” Austin said. “It’s important to have an open line of communication on all fronts.”
Anyone with information is asked to call Chandler Police’s Criminal Investigation Section, (480) 782-4479; Silent Witness, (480) 948-6377; or go to www.chandlerpd.com.