Serial rapist sought in Southland massage parlor attacks

He hasn't been caught yet, but a rapist wanted in at least 30 "extremely violent" sexual assaults and robberies at Southern California massage parlors has been charged with 31 felonies.

The charges filed by the Riverside County district attorney's office against the unknown assailant include multiple counts of kidnapping, assault with a firearm, forced oral copulation and rape.

Authorities said Wednesday that the man is suspected in a string of attacks that date back a decade across Riverside, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties. He apparently targeted immigrant workers and sometimes threatened to kill victims if they reported the attacks to police, officials said.

The first reported attack occurred in Chino Hills in 2003, the most recent was in Riverside in 2009.

The cases were connected through a combination of DNA evidence, surveillance videotapes and witness identifications and other evidence.

In each case, officials said, the rapist showed the same basic behavior.

He entered a massage parlor or spa and somehow made his way to a back area, where he pulled a gun or knife, gathered employees and forced women to disrobe.

The man then "severely beat the victims” before robbing them, Riverside Police Det. Aurelio Melendrez said.

In one case, the man chased a 55-year-old woman down a hallway, slamming her into a wall so hard that her shoulder was dislocated. The man punched her — breaking her collarbone and knocking out five teeth — before he dragged her by the hair down the hallway.

“He’s capable of great violence,” Melendrez said. “It’s repulsive.”

Investigators began linking the cases last year after DNA taken from a 2009 attack in Riverside matched samples taken from scenes in Gardena, City of Industry, Chino Hills and Fontana.

Though DNA has connected five of the cases, investigators said video footage and other information tied the rapist to five other attacks, including cases in Corona and Pedley, where the rapist wore the same shirt.

Because the rapist appeared to target small businesses with immigrant employees, police said they fear many additional attacks went unreported.

“There are aspects of shame, and we believe there are other victims out there,” Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz said.

The last linked case was in 2009, but police believe there are more.

“We don’t think he has stopped,” Melendrez said.

Melendrez described the rapist as “confident and brazen,” noting the attacks were “middle-of-the-day crimes.”

In some cases, the man sexually assaulted more than one woman at one location. All the robberies, except one that was interrupted, were accompanied by a sexual assault.

Authorities said they released a video and photos of the suspect — a man in his 40s, weighing 240 pounds to 260 pounds, about 6 feet tall — because they had exhausted all other methods of trying to find him.

“He’s operating in what we would call a normal state of mind during the rest of his life,” Melendrez said of the rapist. “He’s able to compartmentalize.”

ALSO:

Riverside County considers law on sterilizing pit bulls

Man accused of tying up his mother, 80, is arrested in her death

AEG closing arguments: Michael Jackson made 'bad choices,' not us

richard.winton@latimes.com

kate.mather@latimes.com