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Brookline assault raises alarm

Recalls a similar attack on woman in same area

By Milton J. Valencia
Globe Staff / August 19, 2009

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A woman was attacked and sexually assaulted by two men early yesterday near Coolidge Corner in Brookline, an assault alarmingly similar to one just over a year ago in the same area.

Police said they are looking at that assault and others as they investigate yesterday’s shocking rape.

“Detectives are looking at everything, in our town and surrounding towns,’’ Brookline police Sergeant Robert J. Disario said. “It’s ongoing, and they are looking at everything possible. They’ve been working on it since it happened.’’

In yesterday’s attack, the 30-year-old woman had been dropped off by a taxi at the corner of Harvard and Beacon streets at about 2:20 a.m., and started walking north when the two men struck her in the head from behind, Desario said. They choked the woman and put her into a red pickup truck parked on a nearby side street.

She was put into the back seat of the truck, driven to an unknown location, and sexually assaulted, Disario said.

He would not describe how the woman, who lives in Brookline, was able to leave, saying the case is under investigation.

The woman described her attackers as having thick Spanish accents, being about 30 years old and about 5 feet 10 inches tall. One wore white pants and a dark shirt, while the other had dark pants. One of the men weighed about 175 pounds; the other had a slighter build.

Disario said surveillance cameras in the area, which are part of the town’s homeland security and emergency evacuation plans, captured footage of the truck, possibly a Ford with an extended cab. “These photos are invaluable,’’ he said.

Yesterday’s assault is similar to an attack on nearby Winchester Street in May 2008. In that assault, a 27-year-old woman was walking home from a Red Sox game at about 11:30 p.m. when she encountered a man who initially started a conversation, then grabbed and groped her, dragged her into a car with three other men inside, and drove off. The woman, who was intoxicated at the time, was able to jump out of the car at a traffic light.

A year earlier, three women reported they were groped and harassed in the same area within a two-month period, leading police to issue public alerts through the news media. In those cases, the attacker was alone, and the assaults stopped.

The attacks are shocking for a community of many small business owners who already worry about crimes such as robberies, only to hear about sexual attacks, said R. Harvey Bravman of Advanced Digital Websites and the Coolidge Corner Merchants Association.

He said many business owners hope to work with police to set up a system to spread information about crimes and suspects to aid in prevention.

“There’s a feeling in Brookline by a lot of people that it’s a small town, with a small town feel, where so many dedicated citizens and business people work together and feel a bond,’’ he said. “Then something like this jolts you back to the reality that Coolidge Corner is also an urban area, and you have to be more careful.’’

Milton Valencia can be reached at mvalencia@globe.com.