Image: Billy Joe Harris
Texas Department of Public Safety via AP
Billy Joe Harris was taken into custody on Jan. 8 after police responded to a medical emergency alert from an elderly woman.
updated 1/10/2011 3:32:19 PM ET 2011-01-10T20:32:19

Authorities on Monday heralded the capture of a suspected serial rapist who they believe may have attacked a dozen elderly women in Texas in the past two years, saying he is among the most wanted men in the state.

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A foot chase and subsequent tussle with two police officers in Edna on Saturday led to the detention of a suspect in a case so prominent that Gov. Rick Perry created a task force to catch him. The attacks instilled so much fear that women in small towns bought guns to protect themselves. The police dubbed the attacker "The Twilight Rapist."

"It's safe to say he was one of the most wanted men in Texas over the last year and a half," Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Tom Vinger said. "It's hard to overstate the significance of this arrest."

Billy Joe Harris, 53, was being held on a charge of burglary with intent to commit a felony in Jackson County, about 100 miles southwest of Houston. Texas DPS says DNA samples link Harris to at least five assaults or attempted assaults over the past two years, and authorities suspect Harris' involvement in other cases.

Harris has not been charged in any of the rapes, and is being held on $500,000 bond.

The Jackson County Sherriff's Department had no record that Harris, a longtime state prison employee who also worked in the field of home health care, had hired an attorney Monday.

Vinger said the state previously had none of Harris' DNA in its criminal database to compare against evidence because he has no apparent criminal history.

Authorities said Harris has also worked as a correctional officer with the Texas Youth Commission, which in 2007 was enmeshed in a sex-abuse scandal involving guards assaulting juvenile inmates.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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