CHICAGO (CBS) — A man charged in a string of sexual assaults in Park Forest and Richton Park from March through June also has been named as the prime suspect in at least three other attacks.
Monroe Akins, of Steger, has been charged in connection with six groping cases between March 18 and June 22, on women ranging in age from 16 to 44.
Akins has been charged with a total of 10 felony counts; including aggravated battery, criminal sexual assault, and aggravated sex abuse.
He was arrested Wednesday during a traffic stop, and victims in six attacks in Park Forest and Richton Park identified him as their attacker.
At a bond hearing over the weekend, Akins was ordered held on $750,000 bail. Cook County prosecutors said he approached victims, sometimes armed with a knife, as they walked to or from school or a Metra train station.
Two girls were attacked at or near Winnebago Park in Park Forest. Two other victims were attacked walking to or from the Richton Park Metra station.
Police said Monday that descriptions provided by victims and witnesses helped investigators come up with composite sketches, which were shared with the community.
Officers said they’ve received dozens of tips in the past four months from residents in Park Forest and Richton Park.
“After spending hundreds of man hours since March, the Park Forest Police Department investigations unit identified Akins as a person of interest. Akins was picked out in a photo array by victims and witnesses in several attacks,” Park Forest Deputy Police Chief Christopher Mannino said. “After further investigation, Mr. Akins was taken into custody, and was again positively identified in physical lineups as the offender in multiple attacks.”
Police said he also is the primary suspect in three other attacks in Park Forest.
“We have three open cases that are similar to these incidents, where he has not yet been identified, but he is a primary suspect,” Mannino said.
Lori Walton, a friend of one of the victims, said she’ll never look the same way again at the pathway in Winnebago Park where her friend was attacked.
“A lot of people walk though that, because it’s like a shortcut for them to get to the other side of Park Forest,” she said. “Older people; you know, they take a nice leisure walk. You can’t go there now, and it’s like it will never be the same.”
Walton said her friend is “still living her life and moving on.”
She said she believes her friend will get a sense of closure from Akins’ arrest.
“I do believe that it will, because while he was out there and not having been caught at the time, I think anyone would still feel unsafe,” Walton said. “Knowing that he has been caught, and that justice is going to be done, I think that will bring some closure, and hopefully that she along with her family can move on and they can heal from it.”
Akins was due back in court at the Markham Courthouse on Tuesday.