First alleged victim of serial rapist says Rohnert Park officers did not take her case seriously

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A Sonoma County woman who is believed to be the first victim of a serial rapist said Wednesday that police initially doubted details of her story that are now being cited as key aspects of the case.

The woman said the man who broke into her Rohnert Park home in 1991 was armed, soft-spoken, apologetic and apparently had been stalking her for some time.

When she reported those details, she said, Rohnert Park police said it was not possible.

"I said, 'It doesn't seem believable to me either,'" she said. "But this is what happened."

Sacramento police announced this week that they are looking for a serial rapist who has attacked at least eight Northern California women, beginning with the 1991 rape in Rohnert Park.

The nine attacks were linked last month by DNA samples after a double-rape in Sacramento, police said.

In detailing the case, investigators said the suspect has been armed or claimed to have a gun in each of the attacks. He also has been apologetic and appears to have stalked his victims, police said.

The first victim, now 36 and living in Petaluma, said she was unhappy with the police response to her complaint in 1991.

"They were just so awful to me," she said. "They were awful to my family. If they had done a more thorough job, perhaps they would have caught him."

A Rohnert Park police lieutenant was quoted in The Press Democrat in 1992 as saying they had concerns about the woman's credibility.

On Wednesday, Rohnert Park police defended the department's handling of the investigation, saying all means available were used to try to identify a suspect and every lead was exhausted before the case was declared inactive.

Sgt. Joe Ferronato said officers compared DNA evidence with an FBI database and tried to match fingerprints taken from the scene to others on file.

Samples from three possible suspects were tested, he said.

But there were no matches until last month, when the connection was made by police investigating the double-rape in Sacramento.

Now, with the revelation that the man went on to rape others and remains at large, the woman said police appear to be taking her story more seriously.

She said police apologized for their handling of the case and vowed to do better.

"It's something I've thought about every day for 15 years," the victim said.

Ferronato said he couldn't comment on how the woman was treated 15 years ago.

But he said the case has been reopened to look at new evidence, including a sketch of a possible suspect and a vehicle description.

"We're expecting some breaks in this case soon," he said. "We have some specific leads we're working on now."

Sacramento police and detectives from other Northern California cities where the rapist has struck hope they can work together to make an arrest.

Sgt. Terrell Marshall, a Sacramento police spokesman, said it is possible that more cases will emerge.

On Wednesday, he said police in Woodland had linked an attempted rape and robbery to the the so-called Nor Cal rapist.

And he said police are looking at two rapes that happened in the Sonoma Valley in 1991.

"We're trying to get this guy off the streets before he victimizes someone else," Marshall said.

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