Police seek suspect in chilling pattern of Juniata Park sex assaults
Philadelphia police are looking for a suspect in a chilling series of sexual assaults and attempted abductions that occurred in Juniata Park over the past week.
Investigators said each crime happened in broad daylight as the victim was walking to the SEPTA Erie-Torresdale El Station located just above Kensington and Erie avenues.
“These incidents are occurring in the early morning hours to mid-morning hours in an area where there’s a lot of foot traffic toward that SEPTA stop,” Capt. John Darby of the Special Victims Unit said Wednesday.
The first assault occurred about 6:30 a.m. Thursday.
A 22-year-old woman was walking to the station when, on the 1400 block of East Lycoming Street, she was approached by a man brandishing a handgun.
Police said the suspect forced the woman into a driveway, sexually assaulted her and made away with $30 in cash.
The second attack happened several hours later, about 11:40 a.m. A 20-year-old woman was walking toward the Erie-Torresdale Station when, on the 4200 block of O Street, an armed man approached and forced her into a rear driveway.
Police obtained surveillance footage of that attack from a corner store at O Street and Hunting Park Avenue.
“He pulls her into an alley – there’s a Dumpster right behind there – at which time she’s still fighting, she’s struggling,” said lead case supervisor Lt. Anthony McFadden as he walked reporters through the video.
“And there’s a private auto that will be coming southbound on O Street. We believe that startled him to let her go and she runs down the street.”
The third attack happened about 7:20 a.m. Tuesday, when a 15-year-old girl was walking toward the Erie-Torresdale Station on her way to school.
As she reached the 4200 block of Neilson Street, police said an unknown man tried to grab her from the street and pull her into an alley. She was able to break free and run away.
“In the last two incidents, this guy was unsuccessful,” Darby said.
“That scares me, in that he was unsuccessful in completing his act. Therefore, the concern would be that he’s going to try this again. So obviously, there’s an urgency here in coordinating our efforts, using tips from the public. Obviously, police are very active in that particular area. We are following up on every tip received and getting this guy off the street.”
He said police Tuesday night received several tips after releasing a composite sketch of the suspect and surveillance footage of the second attack.
All of those leads are being thoroughly investigated.
“This is a theme that repeats itself over and over, and that is you have a series of incidents in that compressed area and it would appear this male does know his surroundings,” Darby said.
“So you start to think he perhaps lives in that area or frequents that area.”
He urged anyone who thinks they might recognize the suspect to call 911, or to contact the Special Victims Unit at 215-685-3251, 3252 or 3253.
He also warned women in the area to take extra precautions when walking on the street.
“Certainly in all three cases, these victims were walking alone,” he said. ”They’re going about their business, heading to school or work, and this predator is out there in that particular area. So we ask them to use all the usual cautions of either getting a ride or perhaps walking the street with someone else.”
The suspect is described as a 5-foot-8-inch to 5-foot-10-inch tall black male in his mid-20s to mid-30s with a medium build and facial hair.
During all three assaults, he was wearing a dark green or blue hooded windbreaker with white piping on the shoulders.
He is also described as having yellowing teeth with a visible gap in the top front of his gum line.
“A single case like this is glaring and it calls for a response by the community and the police,” Darby said.
“We get into repetitive acts and that just increases the urgency.”
He said the dramatic video of the second attack “speaks for itself.”
“It’s obviously something we do not want to have happen, and the community should not accept to have that happen in their area.”
“Family, friends, acquaintances, associates – anyone this guy might have come into contact with, if you see that composite or see that video and even have a hunch, call us,” Darby said.