Sunday, August 9, 2009

Edmonton "predator" uses dating websites to groom, rape women

Edmonton police say an illegal immigrant facing charges in sex attacks against four women used the Internet to lure his victims.

"I cannot stress enough that when using social networking sites, use extreme caution," said Staff Sgt. Brian Readman, of the sex crimes unit.

Police said the attacks began July 29, with the string of violence continuing until 6 a.m. yesterday, about six hours before a tactical squad arrested their suspect. All four victims -- ranging in age from 20 to 44 -- met their attacker online, either on a social networking or dating website. Usually, they chatted with their new cyber pal for a few days before feeling comfortable enough to meet him in person.

In three of the cases, police said, the victims were lured to remote areas of Mill Woods. The fourth woman was victimized in a residence. Sometimes, the culprit used a weapon. Some of the victims were treated at hospital for minor injuries.

"(The predator) specially groomed the victims, establishing a certain level of comfort with the victims prior to the meetings, which were definitely for a criminal purpose," Readman said.
"The occurrences were a result of the suspect deliberately connecting with women on social networking sites."

Police first tried arresting their top suspect early Monday, but he escaped during a foot chase. A tactical unit tracked him down about noon yesterday near 44 Avenue and 77 Street.

"We arrested an individual we believe is responsible for assaulting four women since last week," Readman told reporters.

The 22-year-old man's name has not yet been released, but police said he faces a number of charges. He was also wanted on an immigration warrant. Police wouldn't say where he's from but believe he's been in the Edmonton area since last year.

This wasn't the first time cyber friendships have turned violent. Last year, police said, two men were lured to a south Edmonton garage hoping to meet a mystery woman they had been chatting with online. One of the men escaped. The other, Johnny Altinger, was never found.
In those cases, St. Albert filmmaker Mark Twitchell was charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder.

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