Lake Highlands rape victim scratched attacker, chief says

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by MATT GOODMAN

WFAA

Posted on March 19, 2013 at 4:39 PM

Updated Wednesday, Mar 20 at 2:49 PM

Sexual assault cases

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DALLAS –– Dallas Police Chief David Brown says the woman who was raped in her Lake Highlands home Tuesday morning scratched her attacker, leaving a mark that could help investigators identify him.

Brown held an afternoon news conference to discuss the three rapes that have occurred in the same Lake Highlands neighborhood since Feb. 22, the most recent of which happened Tuesday at 6:45 a.m.

He also stressed that each victim has described their attacker differently: The first was described as a 35-year-old black man who weighs 180 pounds and was bald or had short hair. The victim said he spoke with an African accent. 

The second attacker, who struck on March 15, is believed to be a Latin male in his 20s who stood 5’8’’ and had a round, chubby, clean-shaven face. He spoke English with a Spanish accent and wore gray shorts and a jacket. 

The suspect in Tuesday morning's incident is described as a Latin man in his 20s with light skin, a thin build and a pencil mustache. He spoke English with a Spanish accent, Brown said, and wore a gray hoodie and black leather gloves.

On Tuesday, the suspect waited for the victim’s husband to go to work and kicked in the door, dragging the woman from the shower to her bedroom. Police said he held a pillow over her face while he assaulted her.  

Crime Stoppers has issued a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and indictment of the individual responsible. Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call 214.670.4415. 

Brown also stressed the importance of looking at each incident individually, despite the inclination to link them by their proximity –– all have occured within two blocks of one another. 

Brown said police have arrested a man they believe is responsible for the first rape. 

Fernando Munoz, 33, was arrested on March 1 at his Lewisville home for three outstanding felony warrants: A burglary in Dallas County, an aggravated assault in Denton County and another burglary in Harris County. DNA evidence also linked Munoz to a pair of sexual assaults on Summit Ave. and Penrose St. in East Dallas that occurred between 2008 and 2010. 

Brown said Munoz is a prime suspect in the Feb. 22 Lake Highlands rape, when a man broke into a home on Ferndale Road through a window and raped the resident at knifepoint. The results from a DNA test should be returned by Thursday. 

“We believe that’s going to be attributed to Munoz,” Brown said of the assault.

  • EDITOR'S NOTE ADDED 3/20/2013: DNA evidence later cleared Munoz of involvement in the February 22 assault, police said.

During his past burglaries, Brown said Munoz has entered homes through a window –– the same way the attacker entered the Ferndale house on Feb. 22. 

Witnesses have described Munoz, who is of Cuban descent, as both black and Hispanic in his past crimes. The victim on Feb. 22 said her attacker was a black man who spoke with an African accent; Brown said those descriptions did not rule out Munoz as a suspect, despite him being Hispanic and not black. 

“We do believe in the Feb. 22 offense that Munoz fits that description,” Brown said. “We just need the DNA test results back before we charge him with that offense.” 

The next sexual assault in the neighborhood occurred on March 15. 

At about 10 p.m. on that Friday, Brown said a man entered another residence on Ferndale Road and assaulted the resident. 

Brown would not speculate about a motive or rule out that two people are responsible for the most recent rapes. 

“One is too many,” Brown said of the assaults. “We take them all seriously; the ‘whys’ are just left to speculation. It’s just not a good time to speculate, this neighborhood, they need to hear facts and they need to hear from us what we’re doing about it.” 

The department has bolstered its police presence in the area and dedicated an investigative unit to studying each incident. Another unit is interviewing all sex offenders who fit the description of the suspects “in the area and beyond.” 

“Our patrol officers, bike officers, mounted officers are all deployed to this area,” Brown said. 

And while police usually hesitate to release details specific to each case, Brown said the man who raped the resident Tuesday will likely have a visible scratch somewhere on his body. 

“If you know a Latin male in his 20s, light-skinned, thin build, thin mustache who speaks English with a Spanish accent and wears a gray hoodie who has a scratch today, we want you to contact us through that tip line, call 911, but we want to talk with that individual,” Brown said. “That individual would be a person of interest for us.” 

Richardson ISD locked down 12 schools near the location of Tuesday’s assault. Assistant Chief Thomas Lawrence said the district made that call on its own volition –– Dallas police “were not actively looking for a suspect in the area” at that time. 

The schools dismissed at their normal time. 

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