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'East Coast Rapist' Captured in Connecticut

Federal Bureau of Investigation(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- Officials say that DNA from a man arrested in Connecticut on Friday confirms that he is the "East Coast Rapist" who has been terrorizing women with sexual assaults from Virginia to Rhode Island for more than 12 years.

Aaron Thomas, 39, was arrested by New Haven police for first-degree sexual assault and risk of injury to a minor, and he is being held on $1 million bond, according to Lt. Julie Johnson.

At a press conference Saturday, officials praised the decade-spanning efforts of police to capture Thomas, which were stepped up early this week with a new website and billboard ad campaign.

Lt. Julie Johnson said DNA was collected and subsequently matched by the state police forensic lab confirming Thomas was the "East Coast Rapist."

In Prince William County, Virginia authorities are charging him with being a fugitive from justice as well as rape and abduction. His most recent alleged crimes took place in October of 2009, when three girls coming home from trick-or-treating were abducted and two were raped.

Authorities say he stalked 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 when they failed to lock windows or doors, investigators say.

According to the New Haven Register, Thomas was caught after authorities trailed him for several days, having received a tip about a man who had a court appearance this past Thursday on an unrelated matter. Waiting for an opportunity to grab a sample of his DNA, authorities were able to obtain a cigarette butt Thomas discarded.

The "East Coast Rapist" is wanted for 17 rapes and other attacks in Connecticut, Maryland, Rhode Island and Virginia since 1997.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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