- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 12, 2001

Montgomery County, Md. police continue to be stymied in their efforts to capture the man or men responsible for a series of sexual assaults this year in Germantown, Gaithersburg and Rockville.
Although the assailant described by the victims looks similar in computer-generated composite sketches, police said inconsistencies in the attacks have hampered their efforts to create a profile.
"The intricacies are so different. Some he talks to, some he doesn't. Some he just knocks down," said Sgt. Rick Cage of the Montgomery County Police Family Services Division. "Usually we look for the words somebody speaks because usually they have a certain approach that works."
The latest attack occurred Monday. Police said a man knocked on the door of an apartment in the 12900 block of Churchill Ridge Circle in Germantown at about 10:45 a.m. claiming he was a maintenance worker. A 13-year-old girl who lives with her mother and sister was alone at the time and let the man into the apartment.
Police said the man sexually assaulted the girl. When he left the apartment, the girl called her mother, who called police. The girl was not otherwise injured.
Police declined to discuss the details of the assaults but said none of the victims was raped.
"On the scale of violence, if the women persist and tell him to leave them alone, in some instances he just walks away. That's very different from a power rapist," Sgt. Cage said.
The physical description of the attacker provided by the girl resembles that of five others over the past four months. In a sixth case three weeks ago, the 19-year-old victim did not get a good look at her assailant. That attack occurred in Germantown just a few hundred yards from Monday's incident.
In all the other cases, the attacker is described as white, thin, about 6 feet tall and in his 20s. Descriptions of the assailant's hair color range from blond to brown, but all victims say it is short. Some of the victims said he has freckles.
"It's almost so haphazardly done and such a situational kind of offense that we feel it could possibly be the same guy," Sgt. Cage said.
But police said changes in critical variables have forced them to keep alive the possibility of multiple assailants.
"There are similarities in several of them, but there are differences, too," said Montgomery County police spokeswoman Amy Homrock. "It could be a copycat."
Sgt. Cage said victims described their attacker alternately as smelling of the outdoors, of alcohol and of body odor. He declined to elaborate on other inconsistencies, and said it's possible too much emphasis has been placed on the similar-looking composite drawings.
"We've got children doing this," Sgt. Cage said. "To ask them to do a composite by memory of what they saw in a very stressful situation is a difficult thing."
In addition, the computer-generated drawings offer a limited number of choices of hairstyles and facial features.
The victims have been between 13 and 19 years old. In one case, the assailant attempted to pull a 17-year-old girl into a van. In another, he approached two 13-year-olds. Monday's attack was the first in which the man tried to enter a home.
Residents of Germantown, site of four of the attacks, are becoming increasingly fearful.
Three young women working as lifeguards at a community pool about two miles from the site of Monday's attack saw a suspicious-looking man staring from beyond the fence at the pool last week. The only other people at the pool at the time were two 12-year-old girls. When one of them saw the man, who matched the description of the assailant, she screamed. The man ran to his car and drove away.
One of the lifeguards said that while she ordinarily might have shrugged off the incident, this time she reported it to police.
"If it was him or not, it was creepy," the lifeguard said. A composite sketch of the attacker has been posted at the entrance to the pool.
The mother of one of the two girls who saw the man said just the possibility that it could have been the attacker keeps her child up at night.
"I wish they would just catch him so he won't scare little children," she said.
The sighting is one of about 500 tips generated by signs and pictures police are distributing in the community. Sgt. Cage said police don't underestimate the value of tips, but he's hopeful forensic evidence will lead to the attacker.
"Somebody has seen this guy, lives with this guy and knows this guy, and is seeing all this on the news," he said.
"It seems like it's getting closer," Officer Homrock said. "His number's going to come up some time; it's just a matter of when it does."

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