Columbus women in fear of “serial” rapist; Expert says deeming assualts “serial” may be too soon

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Many women around Columbus are fearful as Columbus Police try to catch a suspected serial rapist. Detectives said they have connected a seventh sexual assault to the same man.

“It is scary. Absolutely. I mean it really is.”

“It makes me pretty nervous.”

“Very scared.”

That’s what women across the west side of Columbus say about the possibility of a serial rapist being on the lamb. Some women are changing their behaviors, others are just being a little more cautious when out by themselves. Janice Peltoma who lives in Hillard where one of the rapes occurred said she makes sure all the doors and windows are locked when she’s home and before she leaves the house. And she’s making sure her teenage daughter is safe when she’s at the school bus stop.

“As a matter of fact I was cleaning out a drawer the other day and I came across a really loud whistle so I’m going to give it to my daughter. It came with a purse and it’s really loud. I tested it out, and I’m going to give it to her to have in her purse,” Peltoma said.

A 23-year-old Columbus woman who wished to remain anonymous said she calls her boyfriend to escort her from her car. And she does not always take the same route home.

“It’s really disheartening to think that we as women have to be afraid to walk to our cars or go into our homes. And I live with someone but it’s still terrifying. And I have friends that don’t live with anyone and they’re in their 20s and 30s. Everyone’s freaking out actually,” the woman said.

Columbus Police believe the same man has raped seven women since June, the most recent being November 2 in an apartment complex just south of West Broad Street. Police say the man is short and stocky. They say the stalks women in their 20′s and attacks them in their homes late at night. He has used a gun and a knife.

Brent Turvey is a criminal forensics expert. He said serial rapists are usually regular members of society, motivated by power, not sex. And he said what he calls a “true” serial rapist does not want to harm his victim.

“If it’s a true serial rapists and not someone who enjoys the act of killing or a psychopath who just kills to get rid of a living witness. The serial rapist has no interest in killing the victim. In fact, they’ll often cover the victim’s face or disguise their own face with a mask so the victim can not pick them up out of a line up later,” Turvey said.

But Turvey said he is not convinced Columbus has a serial rapist on its hands. Columbus Police say they are linking the rapist by types of assaults, theft of items from some of the victims’ homes and how the assailant restrains his victims. Turvey said this type of evidence is called investigative evidence, but he said that alone can not prove it is the same man doing the rapes.

“The only way to prove it is with some sort of biological evidence or a living witness that’s connecting them all,” Turvey said.

In October police said they had not found any of the man’s DNA. While Turvey commends Columbus Police for alerting the public of the threat, he said the investigators should not have said how they are linking the rapes.

“An offender will read what they are doing in the paper and they change to prevent you from making that linkage in the future,” he said. Columbus police officers were unavailable for comment but they have said they were reluctant to take the cases public for fear it might compromise the investigation. And investigators say they have withheld other information to protect their case.

Most women WOSU spoke with said they are glad Columbus Police notified the community of the rapist.

“It scares me. It’s very scary. I’m a lot more conscious of my surroundings now. And I make sure my door’s always locked. I don’t go outside after dark. I’m just more aware of everything,” one woman said.

“Since then I’ve received mace that I carry when I’m on my way home from work because I get on a campus bus to go home. Who gave you the mace? My fianc . Yeah,” another woman said.