Grand jury weighs charges in East Coast Rapist case

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Local,Crime,Emily Babay

A grand jury is expected to decide this week whether the man accused of being the East Coast Rapist should stand trial for allegedly attacking three Prince William County teenagers in 2009.

Court records show a Prince William County Circuit Court grand jury will convene Monday and Tuesday for the case of Aaron H. Thomas.

Thomas, 40, is charged with two counts of rape, three counts of abduction with intent to defile and three counts of using a firearm to commit a felony in the Halloween night attack in Dale City. The grand jury will decide whether to return indictments against Thomas on those charges.

Officials suspect that Thomas is responsible for up to 17 attacks along the East Coast between 1997 and 2009.

He was arrested last year in his hometown of New Haven, Conn., after a tipster from Prince George's County called Crime Solvers. Authorities used a discarded cigarette to obtain his DNA and said that evidence matched DNA found at crime scenes.

Prince William prosecutors have said they wanted to try him in the county because the cases there were particularly heinous.

Authorities allege that Thomas accosted three trick-or-treaters at gunpoint and raped two 17-year-old girls. The third girl, a 16-year-old, sent a text message for help from her cell phone and the assailant fled as police approached.

At a preliminary hearing last month, Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court Judge William Alan Becker ruled that there was enough evidence against Thomas to send the case to a grand jury. The three victims testified at that hearing.

The victims said their attacker approached them, demanded money and took them to a wooded area.

After the assailant raped one girl, he said, "It was good," the victim testified.

The defense had questioned whether Thomas was competent to stand trial, but a court-ordered evaluation determined that he was feigning insanity and ruled him mentally competent for trial.

Thomas could face up to five life sentences if he is convicted of all the charges.

ebabay@washingtonexaminer.com

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