Dave Hutchinson is an unlikely sex crimes detective.
Yet the Phoenix businessman, who runs a subscription e-mail service for "A-list" escorts and their clients, had a hand in the capture of a man charged with raping at least six escorts in Scottsdale and Phoenix, according to a police report obtained by the Tribune.
The assailant "choked most of them until they passed out, and they woke up with him raping them," Hutchinson said. "A couple of them told me they thought they were dying."
It was through Hutchinson and his information clearinghouse that the women realized their attacker had other victims, which eventually led Scottsdale police to arrest Joseph Nicholas Ligidakis, a 28-year-old Phoenix truck driver.
"Everybody thought they were the only ones," Hutchinson said. "And nobody was going to the police."
The escorts feared police would either ignore their stories or try to charge them with solicitation, he said.
"Then I found someone who wanted very much to talk to them — no matter what their profession was," he said.
That person was Scottsdale police Sgt. Bruce Ciolli, who assigned detectives to the case and, with Hutchinson’s assistance, found initial victims to interview.
"The bottom line was that regardless of who the victims are, there was someone committing a very violent crime," Ciolli said. "And we had somebody who was increasing their propensity for violence with each crime.
"We sought out these victims through Hutchinson and other victims, but we believe there may be others who are just not coming forward."
Police on Aug. 13 arrested Ligidakis, who has since been identified in a photo lineup by at least four of the women and whose DNA matches that from a condom left at one rape scene, according to the report. Ligidakis has been held without bail in Maricopa County’s Madison Street Jail in Phoenix since his arrest because of a prior federal conviction, a jail official said.
Ligidakis, who was indicted by a grand jury Dec. 2, faces his initial pretrial conference Jan. 29 on 23 charges that include sexual assault, kidnapping and aggravated assault, said Bill FitzGerald, spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
Adam Horan, Ligidakis’ attorney, declined to let his client be interviewed and would not discuss the case.
"I can’t, obviously, disclose anything, any details, at this point because of the pending criminal charges," Horan said. "And he is looking at many, many years — if he is convicted — in prison."
Ligidakis is the son of Nikos "Nick" Ligidakis, a Scottsdale restaurant owner, philanthropist and publisher. The Greek immigrant, owner of the Authors’ Cafe and Inkwell Productions, is a master chef and author of cookbooks and inspirational writings.
For years he has hosted free dinners for the homeless at his restaurants, and in 2001 founded the Children’s Pen Foundation, a nonprofit educational program to help sixthand seventh-graders develop writing skills by composing short stories and poetry on the theme "What kind of hero does our world need today?"
Reached at his restaurant at 4014 N. Goldwater Blvd., Nick Ligidakis said the arrest of his younger son has been painful for the rest of the family, none of whom have had any brushes with the law.
"I have two other children who don’t even have traffic tickets," he said. "All my life I have tried to do good, so I don’t know what to say. If he has done wrong, he needs to pay the consequences. But I still love him."
Steve Ligidakis, the suspect’s older brother, said publicity regarding the case will taint the rest of the family, their children and their businesses.
"Because it is such a recognizable name. If I was Steve Smith, I wouldn’t worry about it," he said. "It’s nothing less than a tragedy to us."
Police say Joseph Ligidakis robbed his victims of money and cell phones and threatened to kill them and their families if they told authorities, according to a summary of the assaults that started in early 2003.
The rapes began as arranged transactions with a man who called the escort services in response to advertisements in a newspaper. As soon as the women turned away from the man, he would choke them until they passed out.
Family and friends told police Ligidakis holds a blue belt in Brazilian jujitsu — a martial arts discipline that teaches a choke hold that cuts off the blood and oxygen supply to the brain. Steve Ligidakis told police his brother was very proficient and "never lost a competition match."
Many victims started to cry when they identified Ligidakis’ picture in the photo lineup, police said.
Detectives tracked down Ligidakis after obtaining a search warrant for the escort services’ telephone records, which led them to the cell phone used to make the appointments, police reports said.
Kim Yedowitz, who oversees a team of nurses specifically trained in treating sex assault victims, said men who prey on prostitutes often assume their victims will never contact police.
That assumption backfired this time, she said.
"I think because police know that prostitutes, escorts, are going to be easy targets," she said. "I don’t think they are as colored by myths that other people hang onto — you know, that wives and prostitutes can’t be raped. They know it does and will happen."