JPD: 8-11 sexual assaults may be connected; public's help needed

JONESBORO, AR( KAIT) –The Jonesboro Police Department has released more information on 8-11 sexual assaults that they say have common attributes.

Police say these 8-11 cases have at least one common factor among them leading to the possibility that a single offender may have been responsible for some or all of the assaults. Of these cases, 8 have the strongest connections, while the other three cases have only a secondary commonality.

"There are some of these instances with similarities. We don't know if it's copycat or if it's the same subject," said Det. Lyle Waterworth. "We're trying to determine if there are any commonalities in the cases."

Police say most of the cases, taken alone are not outside the realm of common criminal activity, and are investigated as if a single offender is responsible.

Investigators say victims have described the offender in various races and sizes; in one case, the victim was not even sure the offender was a male. None of the victims have said the offender was using a bicycle, but that does not exclude the possibility that the offender was not using one, according to police.

The Jonesboro Police Department includes that none of the cases are considered "rapes" because there has been no sexual intercourse. JPD also says a number of suspects have been identified as persons of interest, but some are in jail currently on other charges and others were in jail during one or more of the incidents.

Currently, investigators continue processing evidence to get further leads.

According to investigators, the first assault in this "batch" of cases happened Sept. 2010, and a second very similar assault occurred in Sept. of 2011; all of the sexual assaults during this time were cumulatively reviewed.

Police say of the 30-40 assaults reviewed in the past year(which police say is an average number for the period compared to previous years), the 8-11 were chosen for supplemental investigation

Jonesboro Police Chief Mike Yates says, if someone has something substantial to report, that's helpful, but inventing information and spreading rumors is not. "The rumor mill doesn't really help anybody. You know, if you know something, suspect something, and see something unusual that's important. But to take information and add to it, really derails some of our efforts," said Yates.

"We're not wanting to keep the public in the dark. I just got to have the evidence," said Waterworth. "If I provided every piece of information, the solvability of crimes would go down."

Because profile descriptions have been inconsistent, Chief Mike Yates says right now no one particular person of interest has been identified in these sexual assaults. They do have some physical evidence from a few of the cases, and it's currently being processed by the crime lab.

Police have told Region 8 News they are working diligently and hope to find out who did this as soon as possible. In the meantime, Jonesboro Police Sergeant Steve McDaniel says the public needs to take extra precautions. "Pay attention to what their surroundings are, and certainly encourage anyone to call the police if they see someone suspicious in their area. In the evenings, make sure your lights are on around your property," said McDaniel.

A recent attack of a 12-year-old had been linked to the sexual assaults by another media source, but Jonesboro Police tell Region 8 News that it is a "far stretch" to link the two investigations. "I'd say it would be a stretch to link those two together, but that doesn't exclude that possibility. I think the similarities that we have would be limited just to time of day and geography, and you have to remember this latest one, there wasn't a sexual assault," said Yates.

Police are asking for the public's help, if anyone has any information about the sexual assaults you're asked to contact CrimeStoppers at 935-STOP (7867).

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