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>A Connecticut man believed to be the “East Coast Rapist” made a futile attempt to take his own life by hanging himself in his cell after his arrest, law enforcement officials said Saturday.
Aaron Thomas’ suicide attempt came after he was collared in New Haven for 17 rapes and other attacks from Virginia to Rhode Island over 12 years, the officials said.
DNA on a discarded cigarette butt linked Thomas, 39, to the crimes.
Neighbors described Thomas as a peculiar man who was often spotted in his front yard lifting weights and running or riding his bicycle for hours at a time. The unemployed truck driver also had a bad reputation of parking his loud rig on the quiet residential streets.
Police Lt. Julie Johnson said Thomas was charged with first-degree sexual assault and risk of injury to a minor. He was being held on $1 million bond.
“It’s just shocking to me,” said Dashawn Golding, the 15-year-old son of Thomas’ girlfriend. “She’s crying a lot,” he said of his mother.
Before his arrest, billboards depicting sketches of the suspect had been posted in states where the attacks happened – and in Times Square.
U.S. Marshal Joe Faughnan said a tip from Prince William County, Va., directed them to Thomas.
An official told The Hartford Courant that cops tracked Thomas to a courthouse in New Haven, where he had a court date on a larceny charge.
Investigators retrieved a cigarette butt Thomas discarded outside, and it matched the DNA from a Virginia rape, an official said.
The East Coast Rapist is suspected in attacks in Maryland, Rhode Island, Virginia and Connecticut from 1997 to 2009, police said. The attacks were linked by DNA.
After he attempted to hang himself, Thomas was hospitalized and will undergo a psych evaluation, police said.
Thomas is scheduled to appear in court in Connecticut tomorrow.
Public records show Thomas was arrested in September in Woodbridge, Conn., on a larceny charge and that he lived in Maryland and Virginia.
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