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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Miami Serial Rapist Possibly Caputured

Aired September 20, 2003 - 12:44   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: We are getting word that the Miami serial rapist may be in custody -- actually is in custody according to police there in Miami. We are awaiting a press conference coming from the Miami Police Department.
Just to remind you about this, it's been going on for quite sometime. At least 8 attacks, all of those victims or all of those attackers matched through DNA and the victims ranging from children to the elderly. So once again, the Miami serial rapist, you see the description out for quite some time is in police custody in Miami. We are going to take a look back now from just a week ago or so from the one year anniversary, from the very first attack, Susan Candiotti has that story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Juan Rodriguez didn't know it at the time, but he almost single-handedly caught the elusive Miami serial rapist on the loose for nearly a year.

JUAN RODRIGUEZ, FOILED ATTACK: I feel bad. I wish I could have done more.

CANDIOTTI: Rodriguez had a headlock on a man who attacked his sister-in-law last week outside her home, but the suspect got away.

RODRIGUEZ: I didn't think about the serial rapist. It was just some guy who wanted to hurt my sister-in-law.

CANDIOTTI: The attacker bit Rodriguez on the arm. DNA from that wound matched the serial rapist.

(on camera): That foiled attack, last weekend, makes eight assaults linked to the Miami serial rapist. In one year, he has chosen to strike in this largely Hispanic, mixed income neighborhood. And this is what has stumped investigators: he's targeted victims as young as 11 and as old as 77.

(voice-over): The attacks have parents in particular on edge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I try to be very close to them.

CANDIOTTI (on camera): Do you think it's too scary to tell kids about what's happening?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not at all, because it's for their own safety.

CANDIOTTI (voice-over): So far, the rapist has managed, as police put it, to hide in plain sight. Police have tried sweeping the Shenandoah and Little Havana areas with composite sketches, even going door to door. Billboards feature the rapist's sketch and advertise a reward just increased to $25,000.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you're more apt to see than most people.

CANDIOTTI: The police chief has biked through the targeted neighborhood to generate more awareness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need him do six swabs up and down six times on each side of his jaw.

CANDIOTTI: More than 200 DNA swabs have been taken voluntarily from people police claim resemble the rapist's sketch. Police say none has matched. Last week's foiled attack by the suspected rapist as the closest police have come to catching him.

CHIEF JOHN TIMONEY, MIAMI POLICE DEPT.: Somebody out there, somebody out there, friend, family, relative, neighbor, co-worker, knows or suspects they know who this individual is.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: And now, Miami police saying they have caught him. That story for you, a little bit of background information. We want to go straight now to Susan Candiotti, covering the hurricanes for us in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, but also covering this story for quite some time.

Susan, what's the latest here now.

CANDIOTTI: Heidi, I was able to confirm, through a Miami city official, the city manager Joe Arriola, that in fact the Miami serial rapist has indeed been caught. Here's how it happened, according to this city official. Late last night, a Miami police sergeant driving around in the east Little Havana area of Miami spotted a man he said looked suspicious to him. According to the city official, this man was fold for a few blocks, then the police officer pulled him over, pulled over his car, talked to the man, he did not resist. He thought it looked like -- resembled the sketch of the Miami rapist.

The man willingly went along with authorities and agreed to a DNA swab of his saliva. According the city official, the saliva, DNA matched those collected from the Miami serial rapist. There have been eight attacks in all according to police. Six rapes and two attempted rapes. After they had the DNA match, authorities also did a visual match. We are told this man was shown in some sort of line-up, unclear exactly what kind, to the latest victim. This was a woman attacked in the laundry room of an apartment building.

She screamed and someone came to her aid and so she was not raped but they were able to collect evidence because one of the relatives of this woman was bitten on the arm by the attacker and that's how they were able to collect DNA. She was able to recognize this man for police and then the arrest was made. This official announcement is expected to be made at 2:00 this afternoon by the Miami Police Chief John Timoney. So, very good news, according to this Miami official. This is the best news we've had in a long time. Obviously, the streets, Heidi, will be much safer in that area of Miami. Back to you.

COLLINS: Well, Susan, I was just going to ask you about that. I know you are in North Carolina but in speaking with your sources when you were getting this information, this has had residents there on alert for a long, long time. Any sense from your sources about the relief that residents might be feeling at this time.

CANDIOTTI: Well, certainly, they said people are very much relieved, the whole city will be relieved. It's unclear where this man might have gone from here. We're trying to find out more information about him. Of course we expect that to be revealed at the news conference itself. We understand the man is from Honduras. At the time, authorities suspected because of his accent, when he spoke with the alleged victims. He appeared to have an accent that made him appear to be from Honduras or Nicaragua. We don't know his legal status in the United States. Certainly this is someone who allegedly attacked a wide range of victims as young as 11, as old a 77-years- old. Attacks that began, as we said, at least a year ago. This month, as it turns out. Clearly, people are very happy that this man, if indeed it is the man they're talking about, that is the suspicion right now, turns out to be the Miami serial rapist.

COLLINS: According to Miami police on that.

Susan, remind us quickly because this information is just coming in to us now, who was it that found him and found him to be suspicious?

CANDIOTTI: This was a Miami police sergeant on a regular beat last night in a section of Miami called East Little Havana. Thought he appeared to match then sketch. Followed him for a few blocks, and then pulled over his car, asked the man for questioning, asked him to voluntarily submit to DNA. Police say he voluntarily submitted to a DNA swab of his saliva, authorities say they quickly got some lab work done on it and it did match up.

COLLINS: And that DNA has been the key between all of these attacks. Susan Candiotti, thanks so very much for coming to us from Kitty Hawk but giving us the latest on the situation in Miami. Once again a reminder, 2:00 P.M. There will be a press conference from the Miami police chief. We will try to get that to you and keep you updated on this situation.

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