The 21-year-old woman walked alone on a darkened strip of Old Dixie Highway in Jupiter around 12:30 a.m. on April 9, 2009. Engrossed in a cell-phone conversation, she didn't immediately notice the man quietly stalking her, a cigarette in his mouth.
She did her best to put up a fight. "She kicked; she screamed. She was tenacious," says John Turchin, national correspondent for America's Most Wanted, which is investigating the case. "She said she never stopped screaming."
The woman became the first of three victims to be beaten and brutally raped by a man law enforcement officials still have not identified. He's known for the extreme violence of his attacks and for allegedly biting his victims.
One 53-year-old victim was badly beaten and raped last August in suburban West Palm Beach and died two weeks later.
Officials are not certain whether her death was caused by injuries sustained during the attack, says Teri Barbera, public information officer for the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office. A third victim was attacked this January in Lake Worth.
Turchin came to Jupiter today to begin filming a segment on the serial rapist for America's Most Wanted. It's the second time in five months the show has jumped in to help solve a Jupiter crime. In January, the show got a tip that helped authorities track down Paul Michael Merhige, who allegedly shot and killed four of his relatives last Thanksgiving.
"They called us; we jumped on it," Turchin said of the Jupiter police. "There's nothing that [host[ John Walsh hates more than sexual predators."
Turchin, sweating in a black long-sleeved shirt and matching pants, addressed a gaggle of reporters and video cameras on the sidewalk near where the attack occurred. As he walked the street with a U.S. marshal, trying to get a sense of exactly what happened the morning of the crime, two women poked their heads out the front door of an office building to watch the commotion.
Sarah Black, whose husband owns Omega Builders Inc., says the small office's building surveillance cameras caught the attacker on video. The images are grainy, Black says, but they were helpful to the Jupiter police. Victims have described the suspect as between five-foot-six and five-foot-eight, muscular, with short, dark hair and a Spanish accent.
"You can see him walking behind her," Black says. "You can tell she's on her cell phone."
This strip of Old Dixie Highway is lined with offices and stores, but it's right next to a neighborhood of modest houses. Turchin is hoping that someone saw something or heard the victim scream.
Watching the surveillance video, Black says she noticed that after the victim was attacked, someone rode by on a bike.
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