Crime

DNA links ‘The Creeper’ to sex attack on Miami Beach

Police warn public of serial stalker in Miami-Dade

Major Terri Molina, a criminal investigator for the Coral Gables police department, speaks at a press conference along with police chiefs from Coral Gables, Miami Beach, Miami-Dade and Miami about a man who police believe has stalked multiple wome
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Major Terri Molina, a criminal investigator for the Coral Gables police department, speaks at a press conference along with police chiefs from Coral Gables, Miami Beach, Miami-Dade and Miami about a man who police believe has stalked multiple wome

Last month, a Miami Beach woman awoke to what might have seemed a nightmare but was horrifyingly real: a strange man sexually assaulting her, his head between her legs.

He ignored demands to stop. In Spanish, he told her he wouldn’t hurt her, that he was from Cuba and referred to her by her first name.

Then, police said, he pointed a flashlight at a clock on her nightstand, stopped what he was doing, and fled out the back door of her apartment’s kitchen just before sunrise.

This week, Miami Beach police confirmed that DNA evidence linked the attack to an elusive and scary predator they have dubbed “The Creeper.” He is suspected of more than 40 break-ins of the homes and apartments of single women in Miami and Coral Gables since 2013. The latest incident is at least the second to include a sexual assault.

Each time, the man has slipped into homes undetected and without forced entry. In most cases he simply stood over his victims, many of whom work late-night jobs, until they woke up, then he fled. Police believe he stalks his victims, studying their routines.

Now police are concerned that the suspect has not only become more emboldened, but that he has widened his territory, crossing from mainland Miami-Dade into Miami Beach. The August attack was on Byron Avenue in North Beach.

Police believe he’ll strike again, they just don’t know where, or when.

“He’s linked to cases in Miami and Coral Gables,” said Miami Beach police spokesman Ernesto Rodriguez. “We checked for other cases immediately. We haven’t found anything as of yet to believe there is an additional case.”

Though the Aug. 18 attack on Miami Beach is only the fourth linked through DNA, Coral Gables police say there have been many more break-ins. With the aide of forensics and witnesses, they are certain of six homes he has broken into and believe the number is actually 15. Miami police say they’ve used a profile created by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to link him to as many as 30 incidents in that city.

All of The Creeper’s victims have been single women, ranging in age from 22 to 64, living in first-floor apartments. Though they believe he has been breaking into homes since 2013, the first confirmed attack was June 2014, when a man wearing a ski mask broke into a home on Menores Avenue in Coral Gables through an unlocked window. He told his victim he had a knife, then sexually assaulted her.

The most recent attack prior to the one in August on the Beach was on Mendoza Avenue in Coral Gables, where a woman awoke to a man standing over her. When she told him she knew he was wearing gloves and would count to 10 before calling police, the man fled.

The woman attacked on Miami Beach described her assailant as between 30 and 40 years old, thin and about five-feet, nine inches tall. She told police he wore a dark hat with a large brim and had a black long-sleeved shirt on, dark colored pants and black gloves.

Police are so desperate to apprehend the man that they unveiled a new technology two weeks ago that uses DNA to replicate a possible likeness. Though his age and weight can’t be deduced, collected DNA shows there’s a 99 percent likelihood he’s dark or olive-skinned, an 87.5 percent chance he has brown or hazel eyes, and a 97 percent certainty that he has black hair.

The digital image, shown on a poster board during a news conference in Coral Gables last month, also attended by Miami and Miami Beach police, looks remarkably life-like. Miami Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes said it’s clear the suspect stalks his victims and that police are worried he has become more daring.

“He’s a very difficult moving target,” said Llanes.

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