Ex-con charged with raping woman, assaulting 2 others

A sketch of the man cops feared would strike again.
A sketch of the man cops feared would strike again.
Posted: November 15, 2013

WHEN THE MAN who pounced on an unsuspecting woman and raped her at gunpoint in a Juniata Park alleyway last month was unsuccessful at two more rape attempts over the next few days, investigators knew they had to move fast or he'd strike again, police said.

So they set up a task force composed of more than two dozen officers who hit the streets before dawn on the days following the three mid-October assaults, stopping anyone in the area who matched the description given by the victims of the attacker.

Yesterday, authorities announced that their work paid off.

Special Victims Unit investigators said Byron Mitchell, 25, a felon arrested for a probation violation by members of the task force on Oct. 16 - the day after the most recent assault - was charged with raping and robbing one woman at gunpoint and attacking two others in the neighborhood during a five-day span beginning Oct. 10.

"There was an urgency, and that was as a result of the escalation of the activity," SVU Capt. John Darby said yesterday. "We really felt the need to intervene as quickly and aggressively as we could, and we did that."

The spate of violent attacks had the neighborhood - an area with high foot traffic - on edge.

"We have a predator that was taking advantage of victims that were vulnerable. These are young ladies walking to work or school in the early morning hours," SVU Lt. Anthony McFadden said. "We didn't know what this guy could be doing or what his next intention was."

In the most recent attack, on Oct. 15, police say a 15-year-old girl was grabbed and threatened on Neilson Street near Hunting Park Avenue. The next day, officers spotted Mitchell, who lives in the neighborhood, in a car with a woman near the scenes of the assaults and stopped him because he matched the description of the perpetrator, Darby said.

Investigators questioned Mitchell that day and locked him up for violating terms of his probation stemming from a 2010 robbery conviction, Darby said. On that conviction - one of at least four prior arrests on his record - he was sentenced to three to six years in prison followed by two years' probation, according to court documents.

Police say Mitchell was also responsible for two other attacks. The first was the Oct. 10 rape and robbery of a 22-year-old woman he allegedly accosted on Maywood Street near Lycoming. He dragged the victim into an alley and sexually assaulted her at gunpoint before robbing her of $30, police said.

Later that day, cops said, he pulled a gun on another woman on O Street near Hunting Park Avenue and tried to pull her into an alley. That alleged attack was interrupted by a passing car.

Earlier this week, DNA evidence linked the man to the assaults, a police source told the Daily News.

On Twitter: @morganzalot

Blog: PhillyConfidential.com

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