Pleading for help in catching a serial rapist, authorities on Thursday linked yet another attempted attack to the man they say has been terrorizing students of Kansas’ top two universities since 2000.
Police commanders from Manhattan and Lawrence on Thursday provided new details about the rapist and the crimes that occurred between October 2000 and July 2015. Before Thursday, the last known attack was in December 2008.
“These were all violent acts carried out by an assailant who did so in a cold, calm, calculated manner,” said Brad Schoen, director of the Riley County Police Department. “In most cases, a handgun was displayed.”
Investigators have linked 14 cases in Manhattan and Lawrence, including two attempted rapes. All the victims were students at Kansas State University or the University of Kansas.
All but one attack took place during academic breaks, such as summer or holidays. Most occurred between 2 and 4:30 a.m.
The suspect is described as a white male, about 5 feet, 10 inches tall with a prominent stomach and large thighs. Authorities estimate him to be in his mid-30s.
The last known case, an attempted rape on July 27, 2015, in Manhattan, occurred in the same block where K-State students were raped in 2003 and 2004.
Students in Lawrence and Manhattan questioned why police hadn’t released any information about the 2015 attack until now.
“That’s pretty awful that I haven’t heard about it,” said Brynn Shaffer, who will be a junior at KU in the fall. “As a student, I feel like I should be aware of that.”
KU senior Rute Muniz agreed, saying it was “crazy” that she hadn’t heard about the most recent attack connected to the serial rapist.
“I had heard that there were rapes before, but that it was a past thing,” Muniz said.
Riley County police did not say exactly when investigators officially linked the newest crime to the other attacks, but did say the connection was recent.
In some respects, the 2015 case had “significant similarities” to the others, Riley County officials said. But in other ways, it was different. It took time, they said, to follow up on leads and other information.
“Once we reached a conclusion that there was a high probability that they were indeed related, we undertook a lengthy internal discussion about whether or not to make that conclusion public,” said Capt. Tim Hegarty, who oversees investigations for Riley County. “While it may not be immediately apparent, there are potential risks in doing so.”
K-State student Kelsey Hoined said she had not heard about the attacks. She lives in the Chase Manhattan apartments in the 1400 block of Watson Place in Manhattan, where the 2015 attempted rape occurred — and where students had been raped in 2003 and 2004.
“They really should have given us that information,” Hoined said. “That is super scary. Even before it was linked to the serial rapist. ... We have been living here unaware, and to hear about this now is disconcerting.”
Her mother, Paula, who was with her daughter at the apartment complex, said she was angry that the apartment management had not informed its tenants about the rapes.
A woman who would not give her name but said she is the property manager at Chase Manhattan declined to discuss safety at the complex. “The last time something happened was in 2015,” the woman said. “Two years ago. There hasn’t been anything since then.”
Hoined said she had planned to move across town even before hearing about the rapes. But in the meantime, she said she was heading out Thursday to buy another deadbolt for her door.
A K-State spokesman said the university would be sending out a campuswide message Friday including details released by Riley County police about the rape investigation.
“We did not know until today that the 2015 rape was linked,” spokesman Jeff Morris said.
Authorities said they had created a website asking for the public’s help. The site, www.kansascollegerapist.com, allows people to read information about the crimes and to provide tips and assistance to help solve the case.
An anonymous donor has provided a $10,000 reward for information leading to the rapist’s arrest and prosecution.
“We are here today because we need the public’s help,” said Anthony Brixius, Lawrence’s interim police chief.
Investigators said they are working several leads but cannot discuss that information. “To do so may jeopardize the investigation and future prosecution,” Schoen said.
Authorities trace the string of attacks to October 2000, when they say a man tried to rape a woman in Manhattan but, after a struggle, ran away.
Within a year and a half, in the same block, the first two rapes in Manhattan had occurred. But it wasn’t until three or four years later, after more rapes, that police acknowledged the cases might all be connected.
By then, attacks of KU students in Lawrence, about 85 miles from Manhattan, had begun.
Attacks in both college communities occurred in off-campus apartments, duplexes and single-family houses.
In December 2008, a KU student was attacked and raped in her home. Contacted by The Star on Wednesday, she declined to talk about the case. She said she’s told her story in recent years and didn’t think she had anything to add as authorities planned to release more information.
Her attack was the 13th case linked to the same man.
The woman, who was a sophomore when the man entered her off-campus home late at night, spoke three years ago at Emporia State University.
“I was awoken by a man with a gun,” she told the crowd of nearly 300, the Emporia Gazette reported. “He beat me, tied me up and raped me. He terrorized me for almost eight hours.”
In 2009, authorities in Manhattan and Lawrence privately reached out to the Kansas attorney general’s office for help in coordinating the investigations. In March of that year, the attorney general’s office revealed that the cases shared similarities and that the public should be told of the threat.
Authorities have said the rapist sees a woman and learns her routine. In each attack, authorities said, the man wore a mask. In some of the cases, authorities said, they do not know how he got inside the residence.
Investigators have not disclosed whether they have recovered any DNA evidence.
Students at both campuses are urged to take precautions, making sure doors are locked and sliding glass doors are secured. Report anything suspicious, police said.
Muniz, the senior at KU, sometimes works nights on campus and normally doesn’t mind walking alone after dark. Now, she said, she’ll think twice about it.
“Maybe I’ll call someone else to go with me.”
Serial rapist timeline
Authorities think the man began his string of attacks in October 2000 with the attempted rape of a Kansas State student in Manhattan. Two rapes in the same block followed in 2001 and 2002. The first rape in Lawrence was reported in 2004.
Manhattan: Oct. 2. 2200 block of College Avenue (attempted rape)
Manhattan: Aug. 11. 2200 block of College Avenue
Manhattan: March 29. 2200 block of College Avenue
Manhattan: Dec. 31. 1400 block of Hartman Place
Manhattan: May 30. 1400 block of Watson Place
Manhattan: June 14. 1400 block of Watson Place
Lawrence: July 14. 3800 block of Clinton Parkway
Lawrence: Jan. 29. 200 block of West Sixth Street
Manhattan: Sept. 5. 1400 block of Hillcrest
Lawrence: June 13. 1900 block of Stewart
Manhattan: Aug. 7. 900 block of Moro
Lawrence: March 22. 3800 block of Clinton Parkway
Lawrence: Dec. 1. 2700 block of Grand Circle
Authorities in Manhattan and Lawrence ask the Kansas attorney general’s office for help coordinating their investigations. In March, the attorney general’s office reveals that the cases share similarities and that the public should be told of the threat.
Manhattan: July 27. 1400 block of Watson Place (attempted rape)
On July 27, two years after the last reported case in Manhattan, authorities announce that it is linked to the 13 cases from 2000 to 2008.