Police: West Tenn. sexual assaults may be linked - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Police: West Tenn. sexual assaults may be linked

Composite of the suspected rapist. (Source: TBI) Composite of the suspected rapist. (Source: TBI)
Composite of the suspected rapist. (Source: TBI) Composite of the suspected rapist. (Source: TBI)

By Nick Kenney & Janice Broach - Twitter | Facebook

MARTIN, TN (WMC-TV/AP) - Law enforcement officials in West Tennessee are investigating a series of home invasions and sexual assaults on women that may be linked.

Since June, two women have been attacked in Martin, one woman in Memphis and one woman in Cordova. A third assault on a woman in Martin was reported Sunday.

John Mehr, a special agent with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, told The Jackson Sun that the man in the latest assault was wearing a mask similar to the one described in earlier attacks.

The suspect is described as a large white male with thinning hair and a large stomach.

"We are asking people to be aware of what is going on in their community," Mehr said. "If they saw something unusual or out of the ordinary, give us a call. Write down any tag numbers to vehicles that seem suspicious, and report them.

Mehr has said authorities have not been able to connect the cases with DNA evidence, but the attacks may be linked based on the descriptions.

Kristin Helm, a TBI spokeswoman, said Monday that investigators are still leaving open the possibility that one person may not have committed all of the crimes.

"He absolutely knows that his sketch or picture or likeness of him is out there in the public eye," Helm said. "To continue committing crimes - if this is indeed him linked to this one - that's a pretty brazen suspect."

About two weeks ago, officials released a sketch of the suspect's face after witnesses told investigators they saw the man after one of the attacks.

"Our main goal is to identify this person and put him in jail," Helm said.

The first assault occurred at a Cordova apartment building on June 27, when a woman was sexually assaulted at gunpoint. About a month later, a woman in Martin was sexually assaulted in her apartment by a man armed with a black automatic pistol.

Authorities said the next two attacks occurred Aug. 5. Early in the morning, Memphis police said a woman was sexually assaulted by a man who broke into her apartment. Later that same day, Martin police said a woman was at home when she was attacked by a man wearing a mask and armed with a black pistol.

As the sun set Monday evening on the campus of the University of Tennessee at Martin, students walked cautiously..

"I'm trying not to be alone at night," student Jentri Gilbert said. "I was scared to walk up to the library, actually. Trying not to be alone, in the parking lot especially."

Gilbert said the latest rape was all anyone is talking about.

"All my friends are just really nervous," she said.

In many instances, male students escorted females.  Many remained extremely aware of their surroundings.

With the suspect still on the loose, Dr. Betty Winter, manager at the Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center, said women should be cautious.

"Trust your instincts," she said.

If you can help police solve this case, call 1-800-TBI-FIND or your local police or sheriff's department.

Information from: The Jackson Sun, http://www.jacksonsun.com

Copyright 2009 WMC-TV. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The AP contributed to this story.

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