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Suspect in East Coast rapes held on $1.5M bail

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A man who lived a Jekyll-and-Hyde lifestyle as he sexually assaulted women from Virginia to Rhode Island over 12 years asked, “Why haven’t you picked me up sooner?” when he was arrested last week, a prosecutor said Monday in court.

Aaron Thomas, 39, wore sunglasses and a baseball cap as he appeared in New Haven Superior Court in Connecticut on a charge of raping a woman in 2007 in her New Haven home in front of her baby. He kept his head cast down throughout the hearing.

Prosecutor David Strollo said the unemployed truck driver described himself as having “a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” personality regarding women.

Over the weekend, investigators searched a yellow Colonial with blue shutters where neighbors said he lived with his girlfriend and 5-year-old son.

Strollo said Thomas made incriminating statements about his involvement in numerous rapes to a marshal. In addition to asking “Why haven’t you picked me up sooner?” Thomas told investigators, “What took you so long to get me?” Strollo said.

Authorities say DNA from a cigarette butt confirms Thomas is the so-called East Coast Rapist wanted for attacks in Connecticut, Maryland, Rhode Island and Virginia. Thomas had lived previously in Maryland and Virginia, according to public records.

Investigators say there are 12 attacks with 17 victims, including 14 sexual assaults, two abductions where victims either escaped or were not assaulted, and one peeping offense where DNA was found.

Authorities in Virginia’s Prince William County, where the news conference was held, are charging him with rape, abduction, being a fugitive and using of a firearm while committing a felony.

Thomas has not been charged in Maryland or Rhode Island.

Thomas’ public defender, Joe Lopez, said he tried to waive his client’s appearance at the court hearing, which a judge denied. Lopez declined to comment afterward. Bail was set at $1.5 million.

Strollo said DNA from a cigarette that police saw Thomas discard after leaving a local court was used to confirm that Thomas was the man wanted in the attacks, which began in 1997. He said Thomas has lived in New Haven for about four years.

Thomas was arrested Friday on Connecticut charges of first-degree sexual assault and risk of injury to a minor. Authorities said he tried to hang himself Saturday in his cell but was returned to jail after a brief hospital stay.

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