Crime and Courts
Chief investigative reporter Jonathan Dienst on crime, corruption and terrorism.

Knife-Wielding NJ Sexual Predator Caught by US Marshals

Police say 42-year-old Rafael Velez was the attacker in both Market Street sex assaults

The man wanted in connection with two knifepoint sexual assaults on teenage girls in Paterson has been apprehended by US Marshals, police said Thursday.

Rafael Velez, 42, was located at Broad and Market streets in Newark at about 3:40 p.m. Thursday. He was arrested without incident. 

Velez is charged with two counts of aggravated sexual assault, two counts of kidnapping, two counts of criminal possession of a weapon and two counts of robbery in the two sexual assaults on Market Street in Paterson. 

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. 

Several hours later, an 18-year-old woman in the area of McBride Avenue by the Great Falls reported being forced to a secluded area at knifepoint.
While investigating both incidents, police connected the Monday assault at Market Street to another one in the same building, which happened around the same time of day on Sept. 14. In that case, an 18-year-old was sexually assaulted, police said.
Police are investigating whether Velez may be connected to another assault on McBride Avenue. They say he is a charismatic man who allegedly lures teenage girls with a "very calm and sincere demeanor" and, once they become disinterested, he becomes violent and threatens their families. 

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.
Paterson police thanked the public for their help in locating Velez. 
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