Charges for the man accused of being the "East Coast Rapist" will go to a grand jury in Prince William County.
Aaron H. Thomas, 40, appeared in a Manassas courtroom Thursday for his preliminary hearing on charges relating to an incident in which he allegedly attacked three teenage girls on Halloween 2009 in Dale City. If convicted, Thomas could receive life in prison.
The three victims, who were ages 16 and 17 at the time of the attack, testified at Thursday's hearing. The girls said they started the night by taking a group of children trick-or-treating, and then they decided to go trick-or-treating themselves.
On their way back, their attacker approached them and demanded money from the teenagers, the victims said. He then took them into a wooded area.
He raped the girl in the middle first, according to testimony. After he was done, he said "It was good," that victim recounted.
He then raped another of the girls, and then ordered the girl in the middle to perform oral sex, the victims said. The girl who was not sexually assaulted texted for help.
"I can text without looking," she said on the stand. "I texted my mom, my friend's mom, anyone. I said a man was raping [my friend] in the woods behind the CVS, call 911."
The girl said that at one point she reached police but hung up because she had to speak. The victims heard police sirens and their attacker fled, they said.
Thomas is suspected in up to 17 attacks in Virginia, Maryland, Rhode Island and Connecticut that occurred from 1997 to 2009. He was arrested in March 2011 in New Haven, Conn.
First Sgt. William Burke with the Prince William County Police Department said during the hearing that when Thomas was questioned by police after he was arrested, he said that on Halloween 2009, he saw the girls, got an urge, took the girls into the woods and sexually assaulted two of them. Thomas said during that questioning that he didn't have sex with the third girl because she was too tiny.
The defense had previously questioned Thomas' competency to stand trial, and a court-ordered evaluation concluded that he was feigning insanity. The judge Thursday found him competent to stand trial.