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Trail assaults worry residents

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Posted on: May 12, 2012

Maryland-National Capital Park Police released composite sketches of men suspected in a series of assaults in and around Hyattsville.

BY PAULA MINAERT — A recent series of six sexual assaults in and near Hyattsville, as yet unsolved, has unnerved city residents, and it appears that more than one person is responsible.

It began January 28. One attack took place in Hyattsville, two occurred in Mt. Rainier and three happened on or near the Northwest Branch Hiker-Biker Trail section that borders the West Hyattsville Metro station.

January 28, 2:30 a.m.: The Prince George’s County Police are investigating the first attack, which happened when a woman walked through the Queenstown Apartments at 3300 Buchanan Street in Mt. Rainier. She was approached by a man who showed a knife, took her into some bushes and raped her.

February 23, just after midnight: The second attack took place in Hyattsville, on the section of Jamestown Road between the Metro station and the pedestrian crossing at Queens Chapel Road; it is next to the Hiker-Biker Trail. The Hyattsville City Police are investigating it.

“The victim was pulled into a wooded area between the trail and Jamestown Road,” said Chief Douglas Holland. “She was asked to remove her shirt, there was a struggle and the assailant ran away.”

He said the assailant did not display a weapon and did not attempt to rob the victim, who gave a description similar to those of the other assaults.

The Maryland-National Capital Park Police are investigating the attacks that happened on park property.

March 12, around noon: According to Captain Stanley Johnson of the Park Police, a woman was walking on the trail to the Metro station. When she got close to Kirkwood Neighborhood Park (2601 Nicholson Street, Hyattsville), she was approached from behind by a man who displayed a knife. He dragged her to a nearby warehouse and raped her.

March 22, 12:20 a.m. In the 3200 block of Queenstown Drive in Mt. Rainier, a man with a gun approached a woman for money and tried to unzip her pants; she got away. According to sources with knowledge of the situation, the description of the assailant was similar to the others.

March 27, between 9:30 and 10 p.m. On the Hiker-Biker Trail, near the location of the March 12 incident, a woman saw a man pass her. He then doubled back, came up from behind her, displayed a knife, and took her into the woods and raped her.

Johnson said that there are some similarities in the descriptions of the March 12 and March 27 assailants, though they aren’t extremely close. Both victims said the attacker was a Hispanic male with brown eyes, 5 feet 5 inches to 5 feet 7 inches and 160 to 180 pounds. The composite sketches from those victims also show thick eyebrows and puffy cheeks, although they describe different clothes.

April 20, around 5 p.m. and close to Kirkwood Neighborhood Park, differed in some ways from the others. The 14-year old victim was walking away from the Metro station. She was approached from behind, dragged into the woods and raped but the assailant showed a handgun instead of a knife. This victim also described a Hispanic male, but the facial characteristics were different from the two preceding attacks and the eyes were hazel rather than brown.

Johnson said that nothing links all the incidents to one person, despite some similarities. He added that park police officers have patrolled the trail area for years by bike, horseback, cruiser and foot and that they’ve increased the patrols recently. He recommended that women not walk the trail alone.

“Also, the trail and our parks are open from sunrise to sunset, so they’re closed after dark.”

Holland said that there has been a spike in crimes on the trails lately, but it’s not routine for that area or for the city.

“We and the park police are asking people to use general safety habits. Walk with a friend or in groups. Be aware of your surroundings. Don’t be distracted by your electronic devices. And please, if you see anything suspicious, call us.”

He added that city police are working closely with the park and county police and are increasing patrols in the area near the assault.

The Hyattsville City Police non-emergency number is 301.985.5060. The emergency number is 301.985.5050.




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