Serial sex predator linked to 3 cases in Athens

Posted at 8:29 PM, Jan 29, 2016

ATHENS, Ohio -- The police chief of an Ohio college town said authorities are seeking a predator linked to sexual assaults on three women since 2006.

Athens Police Chief Tom Pyle said Thursday that DNA evidence shows the same person committed the separate but similar assaults -- one in 2006 and two last year, one in June and another in December. The city is home to Ohio University.

The victims were all young women walking home in the middle of the night when the attacks occurred.

The 2006 victim was raped, and the June case involved an attempted sexual assault, according to police. Authorities say the December encounter was similar to the other two, but the exact circumstances of it are unclear.

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation has been asked to assist with the investigation, and police are increasing patrols and asking for the public's help in finding the suspect.

"We encourage everyone, especially students, to stay alert and be upstanding and active bystanders," Pyle said.

University President Roderick McDavis said the school is working with the city and police to increase safety and prevention measures. Some of those steps include extending the hours of an on-demand transit service and widening the service's coverage area to include off-campus housing.

The university police Chief Andrew Powers said in a statement released Thursday that he and Pyle are working together to coordinate greater patrol visibility on and around the campus area.

Powers said Athens is a relatively safe community where most residents feel comfortable.

"Unfortunately, it is now clear that a predator is taking advantage of this feeling of security and victimizing women whom he feels are vulnerable," Powers said in a statement.

Messages seeking additional information were left Friday for Pyle and the Athens County prosecutor.