BY MAX BENNETT — Prince George’s County Police have released a sketch of the man suspected in a recent series of sexual assaults and robberies in the woods behind Northwestern High School. The pair of Oct. 29 attacks left two women sexually assaulted and robbed at gunpoint with three others robbed as well.
At about 1:15 p.m., a man approached two females on the 6700 block of Belcrest Road in Hyattsville, police said.
The man pulled a handgun out and forced the women into a nearby wooded area where he robbed both and sexually assaulted one of the women, police said. The suspect ran away after apparently becoming startled.
Shortly thereafter, near another area of the same woods, he confronted two males and one female on the 3600 block of Dean Drive in Chillum, police said.
He pulled the gun out again and demanded they give him their property, police said. He also sexually assaulted the female and ran away, police said.
All three victims are students at Northwestern High School to which the wooded area is connected. School parents received a letter informing them of the crimes on the students, said Max Pugh, acting communications officer for Prince George’s County Public Schools.
Prince George’s County Police are handling the investigation and used helicopters and several K9 units in the search for the suspect.
Police distributed flyers that described the suspect as a slim, Hispanic male with a medium to dark complexion, standing between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 10 inches with stubble on his face.
The flyer said he was last seen in camouflage pants, a dark long-sleeved shirt, a red baseball hat with a black or blue brim, Nike tennis shoes, with stubble on his face, police said.
On Nov. 8, police handed out sketches of the suspect to the surrounding neighborhoods. They had previously canvassed nearby apartment complexes at least twice, leaving flyers on cars and handing them to people they encountered.
“Residents were shocked” to learn of the crimes, recalled Prince George’s County Police Officer First Class Nicole Hubbard, who helped with the canvassing effort.
Since the investigation is ongoing, Hubbard divulged few other details. But she confirmed that one female victim was an adult while the other was a teenager.
They are urging anyone with information regarding the suspect to contact them at 301.772.4908 or 800.866.4111 (TIPS). A cash reward of up to $25,000 is offered to anyone who provides information that could lead to the arrest and indictment of the suspect.
Since the crimes happened outside city limits, Hyattsville police aren’t handling the case. But Lt. Chris Purvis, a longtime Hyattsville officer with a background in community policing and investigation, is familiar with patterns of crime in the city.
Describing the area near the Mall at Prince George’s, he said, “a lot of the crimes in that area are theft.”
Especially in recent years, he added, the area “doesn’t have much going on” in terms of serious crimes.
Purvis did say the wooded area in which the suspect took the female victims is a minor issue for police, property owners, and the Northwestern High School board.
“Kids cut through there and [sometimes] skip school in there,” Purvis said.
He said property owners, stakeholders and the school board are trying to come up with a plan to address the issues with the wooded area.
Pugh said officials always tell students to walk on well-lit, and well-established pathways no matter where they are.
“We are always looking … to provide a safe environment for students,” Pugh said.