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Serial groper assaults now thought to number 18

Police in two jurisdictions continue to seek the identity of a man dubbed the “serial groper” who they suspect has perpetrated as many as 18 different assaults against local women over the last five months.

The two most recent assaults that police believe were committed by the groper both occurred last week in Springfield within 25 minutes of each other.

On Jan. 29, police said a 30-year-old woman was walking south on Dinwiddie Street near Dana Avenue at 3:10 p.m. She reported that someone approached from behind her, grabbed and groped her, then fled. The suspect was described as Hispanic, around 5 feet 6 inches tall, with a neatly trimmed beard. The second incident took place a few blocks away, on Backlick Road near the intersection of Cabin John Road at 3:35 p.m. In that incident, police said a 25-year-old woman was walking south on Backlick Road, underneath the 495 underpass, when she felt someone groping her. She yelled and the suspect fled. The suspect on that case was also described as Hispanic, around 5 feet 6 inches tall with a black jacket and blue jeans. A similar description has been given in all 18 assaults that have occurred since September — 17 in the county, and one in Falls Church.

“Detectives are proceeding with the investigation as if these two most recent assaults are the work of the Springfield groper,” said police spokesman Don Gotthardt.

Police say the serial groper assaults began Sept. 7, when a 26-year-old woman reported that she was walking in the area of Old Keene Mill Road and Springfield Boulevard when she heard a whistle. When she reached the 7200 block of Monticello Boulevard, a man grabbed her from behind and fondled her. The man then fled. Police said the woman described that suspect as Hispanic, about 5 feet 6 inches tall and wearing a red baseball cap.

That same description--including the red baseball cap--was given eleven days later by a 16-year-old girl who said she was walking on a path in the 6700 block of Metropolitan Center Drive in Springfield when she was grabbed; and then again by a 17-year-old girl Sept. 27 in the 5900 block of Erving Street; and again by a 15-year-old girl Oct. 2 in the 6200 block of Hibbling Avenue in Springfield.

In the Falls Church incident, which occurred October 19, the same description was given by yet another woman.

Falls Church police said the man approached the woman from behind and forcefully grabbed her buttock area. “He did not let go until she screamed. The suspect appears to be brazen, as this attack occurred in broad daylight,” said Falls Church spokeswoman Susan Finarelli.

“We are looking into the connection between the Springfield-area assaults and the one in Falls Church,” said Fairfax County Police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell. “Besides the red baseball cap, there are other similarities in all the cases, including the fact that many took place during daylight hours.”

As the number of victims steadily rises, police are concerned that the groper may become more brazen and begin to escalate his crimes.

“He comes up from behind the women, gropes them, then quickly flees,” said Gotthardt. “That is one of the reasons that there is not a better description of his features. So far he has not attempted anything else as far as we know, but from a criminology standpoint and a historical standpoint, statistically it has been proven that things like this have a tendency over time to escalate. Not necessarily in frequency but in terms of intensity and violence. That is why detectives are taking all these incidents seriously. ”

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