A rapist who has struck at least five times since April in and around Baytown has not only spread fear in this working-class community but also piqued the interest of those who study the criminal mind.
The reason: He preys on other men.
That makes him something of a rarity in the world of crime.
"It's the least prevalent kind of serial rape, and largely underreported," said Jack Levin, a leading criminologist and director of the Brudnick Center on Violence at Northeastern University in Boston.
Levin and other experts say male-on-male rape sometimes stems from sexual encounters gone bad. But that does not appear to be the case with the rapist in this oil-refining town of 70,000 people about 30 miles east of Houston.
Instead, he methodically identifies and stalks young men and attacks them at gunpoint or knifepoint in or near their homes, according to police Capt. Roger Clifford. Sometimes he robs his victims, too, but rape appears to be the primary motivation, police said.
"This is certainly of interest, an interesting case," Levin said.
Men much less likely to be targeted
The U.S. Justice Department says one in 33 men in the United States has been a victim of a rape or attempted rape, compared with one in six women. Experts say men are far less likely to report a rape to authorities, because they fear being perceived as weak or see the attack as an assault on their masculinity.
In fact, investigators in Baytown fear there may be other victims of the rapist who are too ashamed to come forward.
"There's a lot of emotional damage that goes with being raped, especially when the victims are men," said Lynn Parrish, a spokeswoman for the National Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. But she added: "The best way to get this rapist off the street is for more people to come forward."
Three of the attacks have occurred in the city, the other two on the outskirts of town. The most recent attack was Nov. 30. Clifford would not give details of the rapes but said at least one victim managed to thwart the attack.
No one has been seriously hurt.
"But it's only going to take one victim who resists enough or in the wrong way until the gun is going to go off, the knife is going to be used, and we're going to have a victim with serious injuries or who's dead," Clifford said.
Criminologists have seen cases of serial killers who raped or otherwise had sex with their male victims — among them John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer. But psychologically, this is a different phenomenon.
Levin said it is rare for a serial rapist to become a serial killer.
"I think the reason has to do with the absence or presence of a conscience," he said. "A serial rapist is more likely to have a conscience. Otherwise they'd take the life and silence the victim."
DNA tests being performed
Victims have described the Baytown attacker as a clean-shaven black man, 18 to 21 years old, 5-foot-10 to 6 feet tall and about 200 pounds, with a shaved head. Police have released a sketch and are working with the FBI's behavioral sciences unit to develop a psychological profile. DNA testing also is under way.
Fliers with the sketch have been circulated around schools and Baytown's Lee College, with an enrollment of about 6,000.
Jay Ali, an 18-year-old who works at the local mall, said he has been spreading the word among friends. "There's a loose psycho running around raping men," he said.
The local paper, The Baytown Sun, has run the sketch and details of the crimes at the top of its front page nearly every day since the most recent attack, and an electronic bulletin board on its Web site is filled with discussion about the rapes.
"I have selfish reasons for wanting this guy caught," Marie W. wrote in a posting Dec. 12. "I have a son who fits this guy's target group. ... I want him off the streets and locked up like yesterday."