Police accuse man of being serial rapist
Illegal immigrant charged in attacks spanning nearly 2 years
BY MELISSA MANWARE, July 31, 2007
An illegal immigrant who was about to be deported has been charged with raping three Charlotte women in a series of attacks that left police frustrated and female joggers leery for nearly two years.
Jose C. Rivera, 26, was in Atlanta awaiting deportation when the rape charges were filed Friday. The charges will stop the deportation proceedings.
Rivera is accused of attacking three women in different parts of Charlotte between April 2004 and Sept. 2005. Police say he talked his way into a victim’s home, attacked another in the common area outside her apartment, and then, wearing only red underwear, grabbed a jogger who was running alone.
A month after that rape, in October 2005, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police announced that they had evidence connecting the three rapes, but had been unable to identify the attacker. They used DNA to link the cases.
It’s unclear what evidence detectives now have to connect Rivera to the attacks. But last year, he was convicted of receiving a stolen vehicle. As a felon, he would have been required to surrender a DNA sample.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police would not comment on details of the case Monday. Spokeswoman Julie Hill said detectives had not interviewed Rivera and fear the publicity could jeopardize their investigation. The warrants, however, are public record.
As Mecklenburg’s immigrant community has grown in recent years, illegal immigration has become a controversial topic. Since last spring, the Mecklenburg sheriff has been working to identify illegal immigrants among jail inmates and get them deported.
Records show Rivera, who’s from Honduras, has been jailed in Mecklenburg County at least eight times since 2004. In November 2006, he was deported, a spokesman with Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.
Most recently, Rivera spent five weeks in the Mecklenburg jail on breaking and entering charges.
Because he was not charged with a violent felony and was about to be released, the sheriff turned him over to immigration officials Thursday, sheriff’s spokeswoman Julia Rush said.
Rapes by strangers are uncommon in Charlotte-Mecklenburg and across the country — and more difficult to solve than acquaintance rapes. Nationally, about seven of 10 women who report sexual assaults know their attacker. Each of the women Rivera is accused of raping was attacked in the morning by a man with a weapon.
The first was April 2, 2004. A 32-year-old woman told police a stranger talked his way into her apartment on Roseview Lane off Eastway Drive around 10:45 a.m. Once inside he pulled out a handgun and raped her. Police would not say what the man said to get in the door.
On Feb. 19, 2005, a 41-year-old woman told police a man overpowered her outside apartments on Woodway Hills Drive off Independence Boulevard around 4:30 a.m. He forced her to perform oral sex on him and raped her. The man used a sharp instrument as a weapon.
Then, on Sept. 25, 2005, a female jogger told police a man grabbed her and threatened her with a screwdriver as she ran along East Boulevard in Dilworth around 7 a.m. The woman said the man pulled her behind a building near Springdale Avenue and raped her. He was wearing only red underwear, and a white cloth covered much of his face.
Last January, police said the serial rapist may have attempted to strike again, after a 41-year-old woman in Myers Park fought off a man with Tae Bo, a type of kick-boxing exercise.
The woman told police she was walking alone when he came up behind her and reached his hands between her legs to try to pick her up.
She screamed and kicked the man, who fled without physically injuring her.
That woman’s description of her attacker closely matched the description given by the woman attacked in Myers Park, police said. Rivera has not been charged in that case.
Jose C. Rivera
In 2005, police interviewed three victims and released this description: The suspect is a 5-foot, 7-inch Latino man, between 25 and 30 years old, with a slim build. He has short black hair and a very short, neatly trimmed beard and mustache. One victim first described him as Middle Eastern.
Rivera faces 16 charges in the three attacks. Fourteen are felonies. The charges are:
• Five counts of kidnapping.
• Four counts of rape.
• Three counts of sexual battery.
• Two counts of sex offense.
• One count each of robbery with a dangerous weapon and breaking and entering.
Records show Rivera has been jailed in Mecklenburg County at least eight times since 2004.