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Predator on loose as police plea for our help

Police release information about the man they believe responsible for kidnappings of young girls while they were sleeping

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There’s a term officers at the Dothan Police Department don’t want to use these days---serial predator. However, there is growing evidence there could be one on the loose in Dothan. Police may not say it but we will---not in an effort to cause panic but because it best describes the situation and is more likely to make people willing to help. Read further to see how you can do just that.

The general definition of a serial predator (kidnapper, murderer, rapist or other criminal) is one who has committed three or more similar crimes over a period of more than a month with a lull between the criminal acts. If we accept that definition then serial bests described the culprit responsible for a recent string of abductions and sexual assaults.

There have been three kidnappings-- one was actually thwarted--in the past two and a half months. All occurred in Dothan mobile home parks, two on the city’s south side and the third on the north side of town.

Here’s what police say. In the middle of the night Friday, September 6, a young girl was asleep in her bed at Garden Estates Mobile Home Park on Hodgesville Road when a man abducted her from the residence. Police say he transported the girl to an unknown location where she was sexually assaulted before being returned home. Officers—and this is their words---initially thought it was in isolated incident.

Then on October 4—less than a month later---their thought process changed when a report was received regarding another young girl targeted as a kidnap victim while she slept, this time at LaVista Mobile Home Park. Police Chief Greg Benton, in a written release, said the girl’s father was awakened by his daughter’s scream causing the man to flee.

Then there was the latest attack that occurred in the wee hours of this past Sunday morning. It was the same Modus Operandi as the first incident. Modus Operandi or “MO” refers to the particular way a certain criminal performs his criminal act. Another girl was kidnapped from her home in Pointe South Mobile Estates, sexually assaulted, and returned home. Benton said she was also in bed at the time.

Investigators are saying little more on the record or, for that matter, off the record. They won’t even discuss ages of the victims. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been summoned to assist in the probe. Experts are being consulted in an effort to find the person responsible. The leading theory is the same man committed all of the crimes.

Putting together the best evidence they have to this point, police late Tuesday released information about the man they are seeking. He is described as a light-skinned black or Hispanic male with short hair and facial hair. The man may have access to a 4-door Nissan passenger car.

Investigators theorize he may have been absent from other obligations—perhaps his place of employment or even home. And they believe he is familiar with Garden Estates Mobile Home Park where the first attack occurred. They even theorize he may be comfortable inside the park.

Police consistently claim their best investigative tool is public assistance and officers in Dothan are never hesitant to ask for it. They’ll even appeal to us to help track down a shoplifter but there is, without doubt, a much greater sense of urgency about their pleas for public help in the string of crimes that has recently occurred.

They want anyone with information---no matter how insignificant it may seem---to call them. The best way is to phone the police department at 334-793-0215 and tell the dispatcher that you have information that could possibly be related to the recent string of crimes. They will contact an investigator immediately.

The second option is to call Crimestoppers, a crime tip line where callers remain anonymous. The phone number is 334-793-7000.

The third is a relatively new investigative tool. Using a cell phone you can text the word DACS and your tip to CRIMES (274637).

Ken Curtis is the senior investigative and political reporter for WDHN.  You can email him at ken@wdhn.com. Those who supply news tips will be kept confidential.

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