FBI, Police Ramp Up Search for East Coast Rapist With Web Site

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The FBI and police in four states are stepping up their efforts to capture a man known as the East Coast Rapist, who is suspected of attacking 17 women and girls in Virginia, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Maryland since 1997.

At the center of the effort is a website, eastcoastrapist.com, that provides specific details of the attacks linked to the suspect, the most recent of which involved three girls in Prince William, Va., who were returning from trick-or-treating on Halloween 2009.

Police and FBI plan to formally announce the launch of the Web site at a news conference Monday.

Billboards will also be placed in several areas to draw public attention to the search for the rapist, law enforcement officials said.

Lucy Caldwell of the Fairfax County Police Department told ABC News today that investigators hope the renewed campaign will help someone recognize the man suspected of raping four women in Fairfax County from 1998 through 2001.

"There's links of those locations. The fact that somebody might know something, and say, 'Oh yeah, my relative saw someone at that location.' There might be something that somebody might recognize," Caldwell said.

The East Coast Rapist is suspected in attacks on at least 17 women over the past 13 years. All of the attacks occurred at night, near major highways. They began in Maryland, moved into Virginia, then up to Connecticut and Rhode Island and back to Virginia.

Authorities say he stalks and studies his victims, apparently attacking them in neighborhoods he knows well. He knows when they are most vulnerable, like when they are home alone with their children or failed to lock windows or doors, investigators say.

"He's like a lion looking for prey," one of his victims, a woman who was raped in her Leesburg, Va., apartment in 2001, told the Washington Post.

The most recent case was the 2009 Halloween incident, when he attacked and raped two 17 year-old girls at gunpoint while a third was able to text her mother and notify police.

The rapist fled the scene as police closed in.

The rapist wielded a handgun or a knife in several attacks, a screwdriver and broken bottle in others, and after some assaults he left feces near the crime scene.

He is described as 6-foot tall trim black man in his 30s who smokes, has a smooth voice, often wears black hats and camouflage clothing and once had a chipped tooth.

In August 2009, law enforcement officials in Virginia began efforts to use familial DNA in the search for the rapist.

This effective yet controversial method identifies suspects through the DNA of a close blood relative who has already been in the criminal justice system after being arrested or convicted.