UPDATED: East Coast Rapist pleads guilty to 2001 Leesburg attack
A Connecticut man accused of terrorizing and raping women up and down the East Coast for 14 years pleaded guilty Thursday in Loudoun County Circuit Court for his role in a 2001 attack on a Leesburg woman.
Aaron H. Thomas, 41, of New Haven, dubbed the “East Coast Rapist,” faces life in prison for his crimes.
He pleaded guilty before Circuit Court Judge Thomas Horne to rape and abduction with intent to defile. As part of the plea agreement, the charge of sodomy was dropped. Virginia is a no parole state, meaning Thomas must serve at least 85 percent of his sentences.
A hearing is scheduled for Monday to set a sentencing date for Thomas.
Thomas, heavily shackled and surrounded by Loudoun County deputies, was emotional throughout the 30 minute hearing, often wiping away tears as the judge read each of the charges against him aloud.
Many times, Thomas seemed confused, and his attorney Lori O’Donnell had to explain each question Horne asked him.
“You’re the captain of this ship, she’s not,” Horne told Thomas when he asked him whether his guilty pleas were of his own accord. “She’s able to assist you in this case … Is this your decision or is it not?”
“Um … yes,” Thomas replied.
As Horne explained to the defendant that the charge of sodomy was being dropped as part of the plea agreement, Thomas had an outburst in court.
“I don’t know what he’s saying,” Thomas yelled.
“Well, we’re going to sit here and wait until you do,” Horne replied.
“I don’t know what’s going on and I don’t know what I’m doing,” Thomas screamed.
Thomas is accused of entering a 41-year-old Leesburg woman’s Plaza Street NE apartment about 7:45 p.m. May 24, 2001, while she was in the process of moving out. When she returned from a bathroom, he shoved her into an unfurnished room. He used a screwdriver to threaten her while he bound her up and then raped her. Thomas wore a black ski mask during the attack, according to court records, and demanded his victim to keep her eyes closed at all times.
Thomas fled after the attack with the woman’s clothes and cellphone. He told the women he lived across the hall and warned her not to call police.
The victim was in the courtroom Thursday as Thomas pleaded guilty. Obviously distraught, the Loudoun Times-Mirror chose not to seek an interview with her to conceal her identity.
Loudoun Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman said after the hearing that he wasn’t surprised by Thomas’ demeanor in court.
“It would be difficult for anyone to come to terms with those type of acts,” Plowman said. “I wasn’t surprised by his emotions.”
Thomas, in addition to his guilty pleas, offered an apology letter.
In the letter Thomas says that he’s “very sick and have embion [six] problem and sexual eurges [sic] that I don’t have control of!”
“Being in with the police makes me see how much of a second person I am. I did not want to hurt you. I just have a bad emotional sex problem that I could not controll [sic],” he writes in the letter.
He goes on in the letter to say he feels sorry for himself about what he did to the victim.
Thomas was taken into custody by the U.S. Marshal’s Office on March 4, 2011, less than a week after authorities launched a multi-jurisdictional digital billboard campaign in an effort to catch the serial rapist.
Authorities connected Thomas to the rapes from DNA taken off a discarded cigarette butt.
The Fairfax County Police Department also initiated a website, http://www.eastcoastrapist.com, which provided composites and descriptions of the defender. It now serves as an update board on how Thomas’ criminal hearings are progressing.
Thomas has been linked by DNA evidence to 13 attacks along the East Coast, including in Fairfax County, Prince William County, Prince Georges County, Md., Cranston, R.I., and New Haven, Conn. Six of the attacks were in Virginia.
Thomas was scheduled to plead guilty Nov. 13 in Prince William County, but backed out of the court hearing. His new trial date is set for Jan. 14, 2013.
At the Nov. 13 hearing, Thomas reportedly told the judge “he knows what’s right and wrong” but didn’t know what to do. The judge then called the plea deal off.
Thomas is charged in Prince William County with attacking three teenagers, a 16-year-old and two 17-year-olds, who were trick-or-treating on Halloween 2009. He raped two of the girls. During the attack, the 16-year-old was able to use her cellphone to text her mother for help.
Thomas fled as police were closing in on him, according to http://www.eastcoastrapist.com.
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