Today marks three years since the last sexual assault police have connected to a serial rapist who’s suspected of committing 13 rapes and one attempted rape in Lawrence and Manhattan since 2000.
Lawrence Police Chief Tarik Khatib spoke with the Journal-World about the case, in the first such interview granted by authorities on the investigation in several years.
Though no suspect has ever been publicly identified, Khatib said detectives continue to investigate the crimes in coordination with Riley County officials and the Kansas Attorney General’s Office.
“This is still an active case. We still have leads,” Khatib said.
Summary of the case
In 2008, Lawrence and Riley County officials warned the public about a string of rapes they think were committed by the same man.
The assaults began in 2000 in Manhattan. Most have occurred in the early morning, during a college break period, and at apartment complexes with a large number of college students.
Police have connected the serial rapist to 14 rapes and one attempted rape between Oct. 1, 2000, and Dec. 1, 2008.
Eight of the attacks occurred in Manhattan and six in Lawrence.
Descriptions of the suspect have varied. He’s been described as a white man, anywhere from 5 feet 9 inches to 6 feet, and 160 to 220 pounds. Age description has varied from early- to late-20s.
In some cases a knife or gun has been used.
Police have not released whether DNA or fingerprint evidence was found.
Anyone with information should call the Lawrence police at 830-7430 or the Riley County Police at 785-537-2112.
Few details about the case have been released since police in 2008 announced the connection among a string of assaults in Manhattan and Lawrence. Representatives from the Attorney General’s Office, who said they had no new updates on the case, have denied requests from the Journal-World for basic details about all of the cases, such as time, general location and description of the rapist.
Police have coordinated several on-campus self-defense workshops following the crimes, as many of the victims were college age and many of the crimes occurred in college neighborhoods. Police have offered safety tips but few specifics about the crimes.
Khatib said police have good reasons not to release more information, saying such disclosure could hamper the investigation.
“It helps your curiosity, but does it help catch him?” he asked.
But Khatib said that police release details “when you think the release of details will help catch the guy.” Khatib cited the release by authorities in 2008 that the rapist spends time surveilling his victims before he strikes. It’s that type of information, Khatib said, that helps keep the public vigilant about what they see in their neighborhood.
“The best ears of the community are the people,” he said.
Khatib said the case has been difficult to solve for several reasons, mainly because the time between crimes is so long and sporadic. In some cases more than a year went by between crimes. And the crimes are spread out between two cities, making continued surveillance of possible attack locations nearly impossible.
Is he still out there?
Khatib said police routinely check with law enforcement agencies across the country to compare similar crimes in case the rapist is acting elsewhere. Information from the local crimes has also been given to the FBI-run Violent Criminal Apprehension Program, known as ViCAP, which is a database that compares unsolved homicides and sexual assaults.
Even so, it’s possible the rapist “has gotten lost in the shuffle,” said Ryan Alexander, a criminal justice professor at Wichita State University. In some cases, offenders modify their method of committing crimes to thwart law enforcement efforts to connect crimes.
It’s also unlikely the rapist simply stopped offending, Alexander said, based on what is known about offenders who commit such predatory sex crimes.
“Aging out doesn’t happen,” said Alexander, adding the intention and urge to commit such crimes for such violent predators most likely lasts a lifetime.
Report suspicious activity
Khatib said crimes like these are often solved by a tip from a community member who notices something suspicious.
“Keep us in the loop,” Khatib said, urging people to come forward if they have any information.
Despite the gap between the now and the last-known offense and, thus far, unsuccessful attempts to catch the rapist, Khatib said he’s optimistic the rapist will be caught.
“I’d like to think so,” he said.