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'East Coast Rapist' Suspect Caught Thanks to Technology

Prince William County Police worked with other local law enforcement agencies as well as the FBI on the East Coast Rape Task Force that led to the arrest of a suspect on Friday.

Update 2:18 p.m.: 
By Nathan Curby 

Investigators found the man accused of being the “East Coast Rapist” through a mixture of new technology and old-fashioned investigative techniques, police said Monday. 

Aaron Thomas, 39, was arrested in on Friday afternoon after officials said they linked him to 12 assaults through DNA evidence.

Police had long believed the 12 cases going back to 1997 were the work of a single offender, dubbed the “East Coast Rapist.” Law enforcement officials from the involved jurisdictions cooperated to form the East Coast Rape Task Force shortly after the last incident, which occurred in Dale City on Halloween night in 2009.

Charlie Dean, Prince William County Chief of Police, said the success of the task force was due to use of cutting edge technology as well as the close cooperation of the agencies involved. The task force used LInX, the Law Enforcement Information Exchange, to compile information from crime scene evidence and compare it with individuals who had any history of contact with law enforcement. Alexandria Police Deputy Chief Eddie Reyes called LInX, “Google for law enforcement.” 

Police said Thomas’s name showed up in the LInX system shortly before the task force launched an informational website on Feb. 25 and. That was the day Prince George’s County Police received an anonymous tip through their Crime Solvers hotline naming Aaron Thomas as the East Coast Rapist.

Investigators followed Thomas and on Thursday collected a cigarette butt that he discarded to have it tested for DNA at the Connecticut State Forensic Science Lab. On Friday morning, police said, the lab confirmed that the DNA matched the evidence from the East Coast Rape cases.

Prince William County Police and New Haven, Conn. Police obtained warrants for Thomas’s arrest and the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force arrested Thomas at his home in New Haven on Friday afternoon.

Thomas was arraigned in Connecticut on Monday, and will face charges in Prince William County as well. He is charged in Prince William County with two counts of rape, three counts of abduction and three counts of use of a firearm in commission of a felony. Paul Ebert, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Prince William County, said he is not yet sure when Thomas will be brought to the county to face charges. Ebert said Thomas faces five potential life imprisonment sentences from Prince William County.

Address history records indicate that Thomas at one time lived at 3499 Bonita Ct. in Dale City. Prince William County Police First Sergeant Kim Chinn confirmed that Thomas had ties in Dale City. Chinn said that due to how quickly the arrest happened, it would be some time before the timeline became clear. “We needed to grab him,” Chinn said. “That was the important thing.”

Police have yet to release a mugshot of Thomas, but said they expect one to be released soon. 

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Original Post: 

Investigators found the man accused of being the “East Coast Rapist” through a mixture of new technology and old-fashioned investigative techniques, police said Monday.

Aaron Thomas, 39, was after officials said they linked him to 12 assaults through DNA evidence. An anonymous tip from Prince George's County, Maryland resulted in more information that lead to Thomas' arrest in New Haven, Conn. 

Thomas faces an arraignment in New Haven today. 

Police had long believed the 12 cases going back to 1997 were the work of a single offender, dubbed the “East Coast Rapist.” Law enforcement officials from the involved jurisdictions cooperated to form the East Coast Rape Task Force shortly after the last incident, which occurred in Dale City on Halloween night in 2009.

Stay with Patch as we update this story. 

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