Police renew effort to solve 15-year-old murder by 'Fairmount Park Rapist'

Kristen Johanson
July 12, 2018 - 5:08 pm
series of artist renderings of the "Fairmount Park Rapist"

Philadelphia Police Department

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — This Friday marks 15 years since the body of young medical student Rebecca Park was found along Conshohocken Avenue in West Fairmount Park.

The 30-year-old was the second of four victims attacked by a man the police have deemed the "Fairmount Park Rapist."

Now, there is a renewed push for answers with the advancement of new genetic technology, which has been at times controversial.  

Philadelphia detectives are submitting the suspect's DNA into GEDMatch, a public genetic database recently used to identify a relative of the notorious "Golden State Killer," which led investigators to identify a suspect in the California killings.

"This is a very, very new field," said Philadelphia Police Homicide Capt. Jack Ryan, who hopes to have the profile match someone related to the suspect. "If there is a brother or sister or first-degree relative hits, it makes it a lot easier. You could also have second- or third-degree cousin hits."

The suspect's profile has gone through the national database system, CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) several times before with no luck.  

The first assault happened along Kelly Drive, near Fountain Green Drive in April 2003. Following Park's murder, a third victim was attacked while jogging near Falls Bridge along West River Drive. 

Four years later in October 2007, he struck again in Pennypack Park, raping another jogger along the trail near Frankford and Solly avenues.

"He could be in prison anywhere in the country, potentially," Ryan said. "There is an indication that he spoke broken English. He did disappear for four years before coming back and committing a rape in Pennypack."

Starting in 2010, DNA started to be collected from prison inmates throughout the state. 

"And then when that person is released, they take their DNA and it has to be submitted and analyzed, tested and uploaded into CODIS, and often times we get matches that way," Ryan added.

Investigators believe he could have also left the country.

"This is clearly a dangerous person," Ryan said. "There are thousands who use the Fairmount Park system, and to have a predator on the loose — I mean, he's been gone 11 years now, but he's returned before."

The suspect is described as about 5 feet, 8 inches tall, black hair with a widow's peak, bushy eyebrows, and had scars or marks on his upper left torso area and arms. He had an earring in the left ear, police said, and was seen fleeing two of the scenes on a purple metallic 10-speed bike.