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LA police: 'Teardrop Rapist,' wanted since 1996, may have struck again

Police say a man dubbed the "Teardrop Rapist," who is linked to at least 35 attacks on women in the southern Los Angeles area, may have struck again.

Since attacks began in 1996, multiple composite sketches of the suspect show a changing face, but his mode of operation hasn’t changed, authorities said.

"He will approach them. He tries to make conversation with them. He'll pull out a weapon,” Los Angeles police Detective Jesse Alvarado said.

Investigators say the man strikes in the early morning hours, often before the sun comes up. 

The most recent attack happened 5:30 a.m. June 15 in southeast of downtown LA. 

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A 29-year-old woman was approached by a man who attempted to converse with her and then produced a handgun and forced her to walk into an alley where he attempted to sexually assault her, police said.

A vehicle came into the alley and the suspect fled on foot.

"He is the type of person that will flee the minute he believes he may be seen by someone," Alvarado said.

Detectives said the sexual assaults have happened across a broad swath of the city -- within six police divisions and in an unincorporated area. Many of the incidents have occured in South Los Angeles and Koreatown.  

In 33 of the 35 cases, Latina women have been the victims.  

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In April, the Los Angeles Police Department released nine different sketches of men described by victims in similar attacks. Many of the sketches show one or two teardrop tattoos under one eye.  

At that time, police said the most recent assault was in November 2011. The new incident has neighbors frightened.  

"I feel scared especially since we have a lot of little kids on this block," says Margarita Martinez, a South Los Angeles resident.  

Martinez lives only a block away from where the suspect is believed to have hit last. Officers say the rapist has assaulted girls and women ranging from 14 to 41 years old.  

"Maybe I'll carry a shank or pepper spray," Martinez said.  

Detectives said the rapist is leaving behind DNA that has already linked him to 10 sexual assaults. They are hopeful word of mouth will lead to a break in the case.  

"This individual is known by someone in the community. It's going to take someone to say this does look like my neighbor," Alvarado said.

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