Oak Bluffs Police step up hunt for intruder in sexual assault case
Martha's Vineyard Times File Photo
Oak Bluffs police continue the search for a man wanted in connection with two home entries and a sexual assault. Although there is no evidence of a direct link, police say they are concerned that the home intrusions may represent an escalation of crimes by a man reported to have peered through windows at night over the past two months.
Last Wednesday, police issued a press release to Island newspapers, accompanied by a composite sketch and a public warning. Police said there have been no reports related with the intruder in the last week.
Lt. Tim Williamson said police officers have been close to catching a suspect several times. He said the random locations and unusual lengths the suspect takes to avoid detection have added to the difficulty and frustration of police.
"We are certainly very concerned," Lt. Williamson said. "We've spoken to people who had motion detectors pointed toward the sky, floodlight bulbs unscrewed. This guy is pretty clever."
According to police, several of the victims described the individual as a male between 15 and 25 years old, short and thin, with dark hair and of hispanic, Brazilian, or Middle Eastern descent. In one of the incidents, a witness described the man as clean cut, wearing dark jeans and a polo shirt.
In the most recent incident, the suspect entered a house on Potato Farm Road, off Vineyard Avenue in Oak Bluffs. Police said the intruder sexually groped a women as she slept.
In the other home intrusion, a suspect entered a house on Bayview Avenue, off County Road . Four young women vacationing on the Vineyard had rented the house. In that incident, the intruder touched a woman's leg. She was awake and screamed. The intruder fled.
Police officers happened to be on an unrelated call one street away when the home intrusion was reported. They arrived at the scene on Bayview Avenue within one minute, according to Lt. Williamson, but the intruder had already fled.
The four young women were so shaken they left the Island and returned to their Plymouth area homes. One woman who got a good look at the suspect helped the Plymouth County sheriff's department create a composite sketch.
Police said the locations of the home intrusions and the reports of a man peering through windows do not fit any discernable pattern, but many are loosely clustered in an area from Lagoon Pond to Dukes County Avenue, between Eastville Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue.
Police said they have been close to apprehending a suspect several times.
"We've had guys engage in foot pursuits through the woods, but we haven't been close enough to get any kind of description," Lt. Williamson said.
They have employed a variety of techniques to capture the suspect, including night vision goggles and K-9 patrols. The Barnstable County Sheriff's department sent two specially trained dogs.
"They started a track, and had a successful track going for a while, but the dog came off the scent," Lt. Williamson said. "We're working as hard as we can with the resources we have to catch this guy."
Do not hesitate
"Sometimes people have a peeper and they won't call us, or they will call us the next day," Lt. Williamson said. "There is not a lot we can do at that point. The guy is looking for opportunities. He hasn't broken into any homes, he's walked through open sliders. The minute he is confronted, he flees."
Police cautioned residents to draw shades at night, lock doors, use outdoor lighting, and immediately call police at 508-693-1212 or 911 if they hear or see any suspicious activity. Lt. Williamson said callers may remain anonymous if they wish.