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DNA Clears Suspect In February Lake Highlands Rape

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Investigators with the Dallas Police Department believed there were two rapists, and possibly three, terrorizing a neighborhood in Lake Highlands – until now.

There have been five sexual assaults in the Lake Highlands area since 2008. The latest three sexual assaults in that area happened on February 22, March 15 and March 19. Police thought they had solved the first of those cases after arresting Fernando Munoz.  Munoz was originally arrested on a burglary charge, but investigators suspected he was responsible for four sexual assaults dating back to 2008, including the February 22 attack.

Wednesday afternoon Chief David Brown held a press conference and announced that Munoz, 33, is no longer a suspect in February 22 rape. Test results showed his DNA was not a match.

(credit: DPD)

(credit: DPD)

DNA testing on the forensic evidence in the March 15 and 19 attacks has not been completed. When results from those tests are in police will compare them to that found at the February 22 crime scene.

Police say they do not know if the three attacks are the work of a serial rapist.

“I don’t know if this is a serial rapist. I have three unsolved offenses in the Lake Highlands area in roughly a month,” said Major Jeff Cotner with DPD.  “They’re all related in that they’re sex assault offenses. It’s yet to be determined whether or not it’s the same person responsible.”

DPD released the following details and suspect descriptions from each sexual assault:

  • On February 22, 12:45 a.m., a suspect broke a window to gain access to a home.  The suspect is described as a Black male, 35 years old, 5′ 10,” 180 lbs. with dark hair, medium skin tone and head shape, with no facial hair, wearing a dark jacket and dark pants.  He spoke English with an African accent and used a knife.
  • On March 13, 10:05 p.m., a suspect broke a window to gain access to a home in the 10000 block of Ferndale.  The suspect is described as a Latin male, 25 years old, 5′ 9,” 200 lbs. with dark hair, medium skin tone and round head shape, with no facial hair, wearing long shorts and an unknown shirt. He spoke English with a Spanish accent and used no weapon.
  • On March 19, 6:55 a.m., a suspect kicked in a door to gain access to a home in the 8700 block of Aldwick Dr. The suspect is described as a Latin male, 28 years old, 5′ 6,” 140 lbs. with short brown hair, light skin tone and thin head shape, with a thin moustache, wearing a grey hoodie and black gloves. He spoke English with a Spanish accent and used no weapon.

During an earlier press conference Chief Brown said the victim in the March 19 attack was able to fight the suspect off and scratched him in the process. “That individual will be a person of interest for us, with a scratch on his face, arms or any other parts of his body, who came home today with a scratch,” he said Tuesday.

Women who live in the neighborhood say the attacks and the uncertainty of who is behind them is causing them to rethink their daily activities.

“I just went home and let my dog out and normally, I leave the back door opened for him to run around and play,” said Lake Highlands resident Nancy Plotts told CBS 11. “But today, I closed it and locked it while he was out there and then opened it, let him in, and locked it again, yeah, you think differently now.”

Kathy Stewart, co-owner of Highlands Cafe in Lake Highlands summed it up this way, “We’re afraid, absolutely afraid.”

DPD’s Northeast Division will hold an informational meeting to update residents on the ongoing investigation Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in the Lake Highlands High School gym, located at 9449 Church Road.

If you have any information about the sexual assaults or any possible suspects, you are urged to call the Dallas Police Department special tip line at (214) 670-4415. Crime Stoppers is also offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and indictment in the case.