St. Louis County responds to area concerns as reports of serial rapist emerge
By DIANE E. SAMSON
Approximately 40 concerned women and girls crowded exercise mats practicing kicks, punches and blocks as they learned self-defense moves at a safety seminar after hearing of a serial rapist in the area of Parkway North High School.
The safety seminar was scheduled after a St. Louis County Police informational town hall meeting Oct. 9 at Parkway North, in which police revealed that a previous attack had occurred in the same area as two other rapes in which Asian women were sexually assaulted. The news of the additional attack led to police concern of a serial rapist in the area.
According to Sgt. Craig Longworth, of St. Louis County Police, the latest incident occurred on Sept. 19. An 18-year-old Asian woman was walking west on Fee Fee Road almost directly across from KinderCare, next to Parkway North High School, when she was attacked. The attacker approached from the back, grabbed the woman by the neck and dragged her to a grassy area where she was sexually assaulted. The attack happened at approximately 9:30 p.m.
In all three attacks – the first in April 2011, the next in June 2011 during which the victim fought off the attacker, and the most recent in September 2012 – the suspect was described as an Hispanic male, approximately 40 years old, 5-feet-6-inches to 5-feet-8-inches tall, medium build with short black hair and a small amount of facial hair. No tattoos were noted, and there was no smell of drugs or alcohol on the attacker. The victim from the September attack mentioned he had a smoker’s cough.
DNA evidence has confirmed that the first and third attacks were the same man. Although there is no biological evidence from the second attack, the circumstances and description are so similar that police believe it is the same man. All three women are of Asian descent between the ages of 18-28 years old.
St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch said they were reaching out to Asian communities to warn them of the threat.
Olivia Pieknik, of Ballwin, attended the meeting and safety seminar and expressed concern about the safety of Asian women. She is a member of the Organization of Chinese Americans.
“I want to learn from this seminar and share it with the Asian community,” Pieknik said. “Criminals target those they feel won’t speak up, and Asians are less likely to report this crime because of cultural barriers.”
Pieknik added that it is against the cultural norm for women in Asian communities to speak of such crimes.
“In addition, there could be a language barrier,” Pieknik said.
Sgt. Longworth called for anyone with any information to speak up. He added that there have been reports of incidents in other states of an attacker with a similar description.
Fitch said that Crime Stoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for information related to the case and that they are working to increase that amount to $10,000 through his department. “We’re hoping to generate leads,” Fitch said. “That’s how we’re going to catch this guy.”
Fitch said they are working closely with the Maryland Heights Police Department as well.
“Sometimes things don’t happen as quick as they do on CSI,” said Maryland Heights Police Chief Thomas O’Connor. “But rest assured there is a significant amount of police work in this area and all resources are available from both of our police agencies, so hopefully we can identify and get this perpetrator off the streets.”
While the police are increasing their patrols, increased safety motivated many women to participate in or watch the self-defense class put on by Paul Frische, of Midwest Krav Maga Self Defense and Fitness of St. Charles. The class took place after the town hall meeting.
Robyn Weilbacher, who attended the safety seminar, works about one minute from Parkway North High School.
“I’m so appreciative to have some sense of how to defend myself,” Weilbacher said. “It’s the fear of the unknown that is so scary. This information is so helpful because it is specific and very detailed. We all need to be aware of how to protect ourselves.”
Police encourage anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers at (866) 371- 8477 or the police communications department at (314) 889-2341.