April 25, 2012 -- A serial rapist in Los Angeles known for a teardrop tattoo and distinct mode of operation has attacked a 28th victim after a five-year hiatus.
Authorities in Los Angeles are on the hunt for the "teardrop rapist" and asking for the public's help. The suspect has been linked to 28 sexual assaults beginning in February 1996.
After no reported attacks for five years, authorities used DNA to link the suspect to a November 2011 attack.
On Nov. 10, A 15-year-old girl was walking in south L.A. when a man approached her and asked for directions. He then pulled a gun on her and forced her to walk a short distance to a yard where he sexually assaulted her, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.
Authorities do not know the reason behind the five-year break between attacks, but have speculated that it could mean the perpetrator could have been behind bars for another crime.
The 28 similar incidents have been linked "through DNA evidence and/or the suspect's distinct mode of operation," according to police.
"The crimes have been rape, sodomy, oral copulation, kidnapping…the M.O. is very distinct…these are women walking alone," Los Angeles Police Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese said at a news conference.
All of the crimes occurred early in the morning between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m., police said in a news release. The suspect approached each victim and engaged them in conversation before producing a knife or firearm. He would then force them to walk to a secluded area where he would sexually assault them. The victims have ranged from ages 14 to 41.
And then there's the unforgettable teardrop tattoo.
"The teardrops have been mentioned by a large number of the victims. We believe that that is a clue in play and worthy of mention, yet confusing because some victims have said right eye, some victims have said left eye," Albanese said. "Some victims have said one teardrop; one victim said as many as three teardrops. So, we don't want to confuse the public, but at the same time we want to put information out that's relevant to our ability to arrest this guy."
On Tuesday, the LAPD released nine composite sketches of the suspect based on the descriptions from the 28 victims. Police acknowledge the variations in the illustrations and said they are common when crimes are reported by multiple people over several years.
Albanese also warned women in Los Angeles to be on high alert and advised that they not walk around in those early hours alone, especially with headphones on that would make it hard to hear someone approaching.
Authorities believe the suspect is a Hispanic male between the ages of 27 and 40 with brown hair and brown eyes. They think he is between 5-feet-2 inches and 6 feet tall and weighs between 130 and 200 pounds. He has been described as having a light complexion and possibly and moustache.
They said the suspect may have tried to remove the teardrop tattoo. He has been seen wearing a baseball cap or dark beanie on his head and dressed in a dark hooded sweatshirt with a green bandana.
Detectives are asking anyone with any information to call 1-877-527-3247, a hotline that has been set up specifically for this case.