The man accused of raping 17 women in four states over a dozen years asked the police, "Why haven't you picked me up sooner?" a prosecutor said in court today.
Aaron Thomas, 39, made his first court appearance in a Connecticut court today as police departments along the East Coast closed 12 years of cold cases and celebrated the mix of old-fashioned investigative work and modern technology that led to his arrest.
Police said that Thomas' DNA positively connects him to a dozen rapes and sexual assaults attributed to the so-called "East Coast Rapist." He was arrested Friday in New Haven, Conn.
When cops finally caught up with Thomas after a 12 year manhunt, Thomas asked the arresting officers, "Why haven't you picked me up sooner?"
Thomas appeared in court wearing a tan shirt, black ball cap and sunglasses. His wrists and ankles were shackled and he was surrounded by five marshals. He kept his head down through the hearing and never spoke.
Prosecutors said Thomas displayed a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality when it came to women and told the court he confessed to the rapes following his arrest.
Neither Thomas nor his lawyer entered a plea on his behalf. Bond was set at $1 million in the sex assault case and an additional $500,000 bond set for an extradition case.
In the rape for which he is being charged in Connecticut, Thomas is accused of breaking into a woman's bedroom and assaulting her while her 4-month-old baby slept in the room. According to court documents, Thomas threatened the woman he would kill the baby if "she made any noise."
When prosecutors listed the ages of Thomas' alleged victims, there were audible hisses and gasps from the gallery.
Thomas, who is accused of violently attacking women and girls with a variety of weapons in Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut and Rhode Island, tried to hang himself Saturday in his jail cell hours after his arrest.
As he was led out of the courtroom into an awaiting police car, someone shouted: "Why did you rape those women, Aaron?"
Police used a variety of new technologies to pinpoint Thomas, including digital billboards, a specially designed website, an electronic criminal database that allowed disparate departments to share information, and a controversial DNA technique that tests whether a suspect might be related to people whose DNA has been previously collected by police.
Police describe their first break in the case in 2009, when the East Coast Rapist was first unmasked by a victim, allowing cops to create their first composite sketch. From there they plastered his image on billboards from Virginia to Massachusetts and set up a website, eastcoastrapist.com, which, which attracted more than 44,000 hits in 12 hours when it was launched last month.
Police are keeping the website active, asking women who believe they might also be victims of Thomas to come forward.