He studied the routines of his victims, many with late-night jobs. Then he slipped into their homes, undetected. At first, he fled when spotted. Emboldened, he stood over the women until they woke up. At least one was sexually assaulted.
Police, cobbling together witness accounts to form a professional profile and using new technology to create a lifelike image through DNA, believe the quiet, socially immature man has terrorized 40 to 50 women over the past two years.
He’s called “The Creeper.”
Some of the women live on the northern end of Coral Gables. Many more live in Miami, just to the north. Now, Miami Beach police are awaiting DNA results from a possible victim’s home. Though he has been underground for several months, police say he’s likely to strike again, perhaps with more severe consequences, police say.
“This is a dangerous individual. We need to get him into custody as soon as possible. We’re concerned with the progression of the pattern of his behavior,” said Miami Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes.
Though only three cases in Miami and Coral Gables are linked through DNA, police in the Gables using forensics and witnesses are certain of six homes he has broken into, and say the number is likely closer to 15. In Miami, police there have used a Florida Department of Law Enforcement profile to link him to nine break-ins, and say the number could be as high as 30.
In Miami Beach, police expect the results of a DNA test for a lone victim by Friday. Deputy Chief Lauretta Hill said a woman on the Beach was sexually battered in August. She said detectives are scouring through old potential cases, but warned, “as of this moment we have not linked any” of the incidents.
All of the victims in Coral Gables have been single women living in first-floor apartments. There has been no sign of forced entry. The women range in age from 22 to 64. In each case the suspect has entered a home late at night or in the dark early morning hours. In every instance the victim awoke with the suspect standing over them or nearby.
Police in Miami and Coral Gables believe the same man has been breaking into women’s homes since 2013, though they can only say for certain that the first attack was June 2, 2014. That’s when a ski-masked-wearing-man broke into a woman’s home on Menores Avenue through an unlocked window. He told the woman he had a knife, sexually assaulted her, then fled.
“This is someone we need to apprehend,” said interim Coral Gables Police Chief Ed Hudak. “We don’t believe he’s gone. He may have gone into hiding.”
Police believe the last time “The Creeper” broke into a home was in May on Mendoza Avenue in Coral Gables. A woman there awoke, with the suspect standing next to her. When she told him that she knew he was wearing gloves and that she was going to close her eyes and count to 10 before calling police, he fled.
On Thursday morning, Hudak and police brass from neighboring agencies gathered at Coral Gables police headquarters, where they detailed their growing concern and shared a digitally created image of the suspect that is so life-like it appears to be a photo.
Though age and weight remain unknown, DNA confirms his ancestry is Hispanic. There’s a 99 percent likelihood he is dark or olived-skinned and an 87.5 percent chance that he has brown or hazel eyes. Police are 97 percent certain that the stalker has black hair. And they can say with 94.3 percent certainty that he does not have freckles.
Still, Hudak warned that the technology is new, only online since December, and only used four previous times with other agencies. “This is not a picture,” he said.
Llanes, the Miami chief, said finding the suspect has proven difficult. Despite identifying the neighborhoods where women have been stalked, there doesn’t seem to be a geographic pattern to the break-ins.
“He’s a very difficult moving target,” Llanes said. “We are worried about the escalation of contact with victims. He stalks his victims prior to attacking or committing an act.”