CHICAGO (CBS) – Police have resumed searching for a man suspected of raping two women and a teenage girl in Washington Heights early Wednesday, and hiding in another girl’s closet, after determining a “person of interest” they were questioning was not responsible for the crimes.
Detectives had been questioning a man about the attacks Wednesday afternoon, but came to believe he was not responsible for the series of attacks, which all took place in a three-block radius in a span of a few hours.
That man has since been released, and police were back at square one in their search for the attacker. They have released a sketch of the suspect, who is described as a young man between 16 and 22 years old, standing about 6 feet tall, weighing about 160 pounds, with dark skin, shoulder-length dreadlocks, and a slender build.
But one of the victims, a 22-year-old woman, tells CBS 2’s Chris Martinez she believes police had the right man. She says she saw him in a lineup.
“I still feel a little messed up about it, but justice is going to be served one way or another,” says the victim, whose mother also was attacked.
Ed Whiten, whose daughter was almost attacked, is frustrated a suspect has not been identified.
It’s also why talk of street justice is heard all throughout the neighborhood now. Community leaders urged calm.
“Justice is better served with this guy in custody, other than anyone losing their life trying to take this guy’s life,” activist Andrew Holmes says.
Police said the attacks started around 4 a.m. Wednesday, when two women — a 43-year-old woman and her 22-year-old daughter — were sexually assaulted while they slept in their home in the 10300 block of South Emerald Avenue.
Later, around 5:30 a.m., police believe the same man broke into a house in the 10100 block of South Green Street, and hid in an 11-year-old girl’s closet.
Her mother, Marquita Snow Whiten, said the girl woke up to the sound of her puppy barking.
“He was in the closet, just staring, and thought it was a monster, so she screamed really loud,” she said. “For her to go through this, I know she’s scared, and I don’t want anybody else’s child to go through this.”
Her father, Edward Whiten, said he thinks the man was in the house for a few minutes before he was discovered. When Whiten got to his daughter’s room, the suspect dove out her window, head-first.
“I just saw his legs, and his feet. He was already mostly out the window,” Whiten said.
He said he believes the man got in by propping a garbage can against his daughter’s window, and climbing in. The window was closed, but not locked.
The suspect never laid a finger on the girl.
Police said, about an hour later, the same man sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl walking to her bus stop about a block away, near 103rd and Peoria Streets. He dragged that girl into a nearby yard, and raped her.
Edward Whiten said he had a gut feeling police didn’t have the right guy after the victims were brought in for a lineup Wednesday night.
He said he’s disappointed the attacker hasn’t been found yet, but hopeful an arrest will be made.
“They said already that they do have DNA evidence, that they have fingerprints, but that kind of thing takes time. So, hopefully, before they have to use all that to connect the dots to see who the person is, they actually find somebody else, and put that person in custody,” he said. “I just hope that makes them redouble their efforts for finding this guy.”