Rape suspect reportedly speaks of additional attacks

By John Christoffersen
Associated Press / March 23, 2011

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NEW HAVEN — A Connecticut man suspected of rapes along the East Coast since 1997 told investigators he began committing sexual offenses six years before that, two law enforcement officials familiar with the case said yesterday.

Aaron Thomas, 39, pleaded not guilty yesterday in New Haven Superior Court to a charge of raping a woman in New Haven in 2007 in her apartment in front of her baby. He kept his head lowered during the proceedings.

Thomas was arrested March 4 in his hometown of New Haven after authorities say DNA confirmed he was the so-called East Coast rapist responsible for attacks on 17 women from Virginia to Connecticut.

Thomas told police he began committing sexual offenses at age 19 in 1991, according to the two officials with direct knowledge of the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter remains under investigation.

Thomas’s attorney, public defender Joseph Lopez, said he has not seen details of the state’s case. Thomas is charged with one rape in Connecticut and three in Virginia.

The attacks started in 1997 in Forestville, Md., with a rapist pulling a gun on a woman and forcing her into the woods. Seven months later, a woman was raped in Maryland; the following year, a 16-year-old girl was raped, also in Maryland. Then the rapist began attacking women in Virginia before returning to Maryland in 2001, when he raped two victims in the same attack. Two teenagers were raped in 2009 in Woodbridge, Va.