DNA evidence links State College rape cases

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The State College Police Department is seeking information on three forcible rapes that occurred between August 2010 and April 2011 that recently have been determined to be linked through DNA evidence. These three crimes, which involved three different victims, are as follows:

-- Sunday, Aug. 22, 2010, between 2 and 4 a.m. in the area of East Prospect Avenue and Locust Lane.

-- Friday, Jan. 28, 2011, believed to be between 1:30 and 2:30 a.m. in the area of Fraternity Row and/or East Prospect Avenue.

-- Sunday, April 3, 2011, between 2:30 and 3:30 a.m. in the area of West Fairmount Avenue and South Burrowes Street.

The State College Police continue to actively investigate the rapes and are following up on all possible leads in each of the cases. In all three of these cases, the female victims reported they did not know the assailant.

In addition to these cases being forensically linked through DNA evidence, they also share similar characteristics. Each rape occurred outside, between 1:30 and 4 a.m. in the Highlands North Neighborhood. In each case, the victims were white females, college age, walking alone and were highly intoxicated. The offender used both sexual and physical violence in all of these rapes.

It is possible the offender has committed other rapes or assaults and/or has been involved in acquaintance or date rape situations that may have gone unreported. After consulting with the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit, it is believed the male offender may have some of the following characteristics:

-- College age.

-- Very comfortable in the environment where the assaults occurred.

-- Appears confident with a dominant and controlling personality.

-- Does not handle rejection well and may resort to retaliation if rejected.

-- May be prominent in the local social scene and influential over others in that environment.

-- Likely used his social influence to degrade females who have rejected him.

-- Views women as having little value and not worthy of being treated well.

-- Deliberately targets women who are alone and highly intoxicated.

It is believed this male offender has committed at least these three rapes. This type of offender is likely to continue to commit these crimes if not identified and arrested. The possible characteristics of the offender are being provided to the public in hopes that anyone in the community may know a possible suspect who fits some or many of these characteristics or have had a prior relationship with the offender and know this to be consistent with his prior behaviors.

For the sake of both potential victims and the offender himself, it is essential to identify this person before any additional crimes occur or the offender increases his level of violence. The State College Police Department is urging anyone having information about any of these cases or knows someone who matches the characteristics provided to contact the police department at 814-234-7150 or submit an anonymous tip via the State College Police Department website at http://www.statecollegepa.us/index.aspx?NID=589 online.

The State College Police Department also urges any victims of unreported sexual assault or rape incidents to report the crime to the police department and to receive the assistance, resources and support available to them. Any and all information that is provided is valuable. The information provided may help police identify additional victims, witnesses or suspects. Because DNA evidence is available, a determination about potential suspects will be analyzed quickly and definitively.

The State College Police Department is offering a reward of up to $1,000 to any person providing information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for these three rape crimes.

Penn State police have released tips designed to help members of the campus and State College communities avoid sexual and physical assault.

Reduce your risk

-- Know your limits when it comes to alcohol use. If you chose to consume alcohol, do so in moderation and stop when you begin to feel the effects of the alcohol. Excessive consumption of alcohol may make you more vulnerable and will significantly distort your ability to recall events. Illegal drug use or use of prescription medications also will greatly impair your judgment and ability to protect yourself.

-- Never leave your drink unattended. Doing so increases the risk that someone using a non-detectable date-rape drug may victimize you. Do not set your drink down while talking, dancing, using the restroom or making a phone call. If you've left your drink alone for any period of time, get a new one.

-- Don't accept drinks from people you don't know or trust. If you choose to accept a drink, go with the person to the bar to order it, watch it being poured, and carry it yourself. At parties, don't drink from the punch bowls or other common open containers.

-- Avoid walking or jogging alone, especially at night. Whether you are going out for an evening with your friends, exercising or just walking to class on campus, it always is safer to be with another person or with a group of people. Also be sure to vary your route and stay in well-traveled, well-lit areas. To request an escort from the Penn State Police Security Escort Service, call 814-865-WALK (9255).

-- When you go to a social gathering, go with a group of friends. Arrive together, check in with each other throughout the evening and leave together.

-- Watch out for your friends. If a friend seems too intoxicated for the amount of alcohol they've had, or is acting out of character, get him or her to a safe place immediately.

-- Avoid leaving a social event or being alone with someone you don't know well.

-- Always tell a trusted person where you are going and when. Plan to call that person when you arrive, and make it a habit. If someone knows your plans and you have not arrived, this will alert them to a possible need for help.

-- Be aware of your surroundings. Knowing where you are and who is around you may help you to get out of a bad situation.

-- Walk with a purpose. Even if you don't know where you are going, act like you do.

-- Avoid isolated areas. It is more difficult to get help if no one is around.

-- Carry a cell phone and be sure it is charged. You can call 9-1-1 even if your phone is locked or out of minutes.

-- Avoid wearing headphones on, or putting ear buds in, both ears. This will allow you to be more aware of your surroundings, especially when walking or jogging alone.

-- Especially if you're alone, be sure to park your car in a well-lit area. If the parking lot is dark, with little activity, park elsewhere.

-- Trust your instincts. If a situation or location feels unsafe or uncomfortable, remove yourself.

-- Always lock your doors and windows, at home and in your car. Have your key ready as you approach your dorm, apartment, home or vehicle. If you live on campus, never allow unescorted guests into residence halls. Residence halls are controlled by 24-hour electronic access. Residents are required to use student identification cards for admittance and a resident must escort every guest.

If you are sexually or physically assaulted

-- Find a safe environment, anywhere away from the attacker. Ask a trusted friend to stay with you for support.

-- Know that what happened was not your fault and that now you should do what is best for you.

-- Report the attack to police immediately by calling 9-1-1, or call campus police by dialing 814-863-1111.

-- Preserve evidence of the attack. If you have been sexually assaulted, do not change clothes, bathe or brush your teeth.

-- Write down all the details you can recall about the attack and the attacker.

Victim's resources/hotline numbers

-- Centre County Women's Resource Center: 877-234-5050 (toll-free) or 814-234-5050.

-- National Sexual Assault Hotline: Free, confidential counseling, 24 hours a day: 800-656-HOPE.

-- For campus and community sexual assault resources at each of Penn State's campuses, visit http://studentaffairs.psu.edu/womenscenter/resources/ccsar.shtml online.

-- For more detailed information, refer to the "Student Affairs Protocol to Assist Victims of Relationship, Domestic and Sexual Violence," at http://studentaffairs.psu.edu/womenscenter/pdf/protocol.pdf online.

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Last Updated April 25, 2012