Police in New Jersey are searching for a hardened criminal who has already been linked to two knifepoint sexual assaults on teenage girls in Paterson and may be connected to a third incident.
Authorities say 42-year-old Rafael Velez has been on the run since they tried to corner him in a textile factory where he works on Market Street and later surrounded his home as they sought to question him in the cases.
Police said a 19-year-old victim came forward this week and told them an attacker forced her into a building on the 100 block of Market Street at knifepoint around 6 p.m. Monday and sexually assaulted her. She told police the suspect threatened to kill her family if she called authorities.
Velez served 15 years in prison on charges including sexual assault, robbery, kidnapping, weapons possession and making terrorist threats, according to Department of Corrections records. He was released in January 2012.
"He's done it before, he'll do it again," said Paterson Lt. Rich Reyes. "We are actively searching for him."
Reyes said police also wanted to urge other potential victims to come forward. He said some may be hesitant because the suspect threatened their families, but assured potential victims police would assist them in every way.