A man who tried to sexually assault a woman after breaking into her Clayton County apartment early Monday may be responsible for at least eight unsolved rapes in the county since 2015, police said.
At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Clayton police Maj. Anthony Thuman urged women to remain cautious as detectives continue their search for a serial rapist targeting black women between the ages of 19 and 39.
The latest attack occurred about 1 a.m. Monday at the Park at Tara apartments off Tara Road in unincorporated Jonesboro, authorities said.
Thuman said a man entered the home and tried to assault a woman, who was able to call to her roommate for help.
“The two managed to fight the suspect off and the suspect fled out the back door of the apartment,” Thuman said, calling the incident the latest in a string of Clayton County sexual assaults.
Thuman said while there’s no physical evidence linking the latest assault to the string of rapes in the area over the past four years, there are “strong similarities” in the cases.
DNA from eight of the attacks has been linked to one man, but investigators are still unsure who that person is.
On Wednesday, police released a sketch of the man believed to be responsible for the latest break-in and placed it next to two other sketches from previous rapes — one from 2016 and one from 2017.
The fact that the attacks are occurring in the same area could mean that the suspect lives nearby and feels comfortable there, detectives said.
“The Clayton County Police Department is absolutely dedicated to catching this individual,” Thuman said, calling it a “top priority” for investigators.
At first, investigators didn’t suspect the cases were linked because the man did not use the same method to intimidate or gain access to the victims. That was until the GBI returned evidence police said confirms the victims were assaulted by the same person.
The attacks are seemingly random, as none of the victims appeared to know their attacker, police said. While the suspected serial rapist used weapons in the past, authorities said the man in Monday’s attack threatened to use a weapon but never presented one.
Thuman said police are canvassing the area for surveillance cameras that may have captured the suspect before or after Monday’s attack. Officers are also going door-to-door in search of potential witnesses.
In the meantime, he cautioned the women of Clayton County to remain vigilant.
“One of the things that we’re asking ladies to do is please be very aware of your surroundings,” Thuman said. “Try to stay in well-lit areas. Keep your cellphone in your hand. Keep your car keys in your hand. If you can, please travel in pairs.”
Women who feel unsafe walking into their homes or businesses alone are encouraged to call for a police escort, he said.
Anyone who knows the suspect’s identity or whereabouts is asked to call Clayton County detectives at 770-477-3605.