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FBI Seeks Information Leading to the Arrest of the Potomac River Rapist
DNA Links Seven of Nine Attacks, Including One Murder

FBI Washington December 15, 2011
  • Public Information Office (202) 278-3519

Today, the FBI launched a media campaign that includes a reward of up to $25,000 offered by the Metropolitan Police Department to assist investigators in catching a cold-case serial rapist and murderer who attacked women in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

Between May 6, 1991, and Aug. 1, 1998, a single assailant sexually assaulted eight women, attempted another sexual assault, and committed one homicide in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. The victims ranged in age from 18 to 41 years old. Seven of the nine attacks have now been linked by DNA and all are linked by modus operandi.

The case is being investigated by the Montgomery County, Md., Police Department, Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), and the FBI’s Washington Field Office with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

Homicide victim, Christine Mirzayan, a 29-year-old intern, was attacked and murdered while walking to her residence in the Georgetown area of the District of Columbia, on Aug. 1, 1998. In addition to being sexually assaulted, she was struck multiple times in the head with a rock and her body was left yards from the Whitehurst Freeway. The other sexual assaults took place in Montgomery County, Md.

“In law enforcement, we understand that justice delayed does not mean that justice will be denied,” said U.S Attorney Ronald C. Machen, Jr. “We are committed to obtaining justice for Christine Mirzayan and the other victims of the Potomac River Rapist, but we need the public’s help. One piece of information from the public—no matter how insignificant it might seem—could crack this case and allow us to apprehend this killer.”

“We have been able to link an unknown subject to most of the attacks committed in Montgomery County, and to the murder of Ms. Mirzayan in Georgetown,” said Captain David Gillespie, Director of the Major Crimes Division, Montgomery County, Md., Police Department. “We believe that this subject resided in, or had ties to Montgomery County, and we hope that with the community’s help, we will be able to identify him.”

“It is unlikely that a criminal who committed such heinous acts of violence against women would stop,” said Chief Cathy L. Lanier of the Metropolitan Police Department. “We need the public’s help in identifying and locating this violent predator.”

“The public is our best weapon in solving this case. We need you to think about this information, jog your memory, and call law enforcement if you think you know anything that could help us,” said Ronald T. Hosko, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office’s Criminal Division.

Law enforcement is seeking any information related to the assaults and murder in order to apprehend the assailant, dubbed the Potomac River Rapist. The Potomac River Rapist is described as an African-American male, between 5’8”-5’11” tall, with a medium build. At the time of the assaults, he was believed to be in his late-20s to late-30s. Since time has progressed, he is believed to be in his late-40s to late-50s.

Most of the assaults followed a particular pattern. The assailant used a “blitz” attack by throwing a blanket or towel over the victim’s head. All of the sexual assault victims, except for the murder, were attacked in their homes or private residences. All attacks took place during weekday evenings except for the murder, which occurred on a Saturday night.

The dates and locations of these assaults are:

DateApproximate TimeSubdivisionLocation
Monday, May 6, 1991 8:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m. Washingtonian Woods Gaithersburg, Md.
Thursday, Sept. 5, 1991 10:00 p.m. - 10:30p.m. Watkins Meadows Germantown, Md.
Thursday, Nov. 21, 1991 9:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. Potomac Village/Downtown Bethesda, Md.
Wednesday, Dec. 11, 1991 8:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. Quince Orchard Knolls North Potomac, Md.
Friday, Jan. 24, 1992 9:00 p.m. Potomac Grove North Potomac, Md.
Tuesday, March 8, 1994 7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. Highwood Rockville, Md.
Wednesday, Feb. 26, 1997 7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. Rock Creek Manor Rockville, Md.
Friday, Nov. 14, 1997 7:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. New Hampshire Avenue/Rt. 198 Silver Spring, Md.
Saturday, Aug. 1, 1998 10:30 p.m. - 11:00 p.m. 3600 block Canal Road, Georgetown Washington, D.C.

The public is asked to review the information and consider whether they know someone who generally fits this description, who lived or had ties to the area around the times of the assaults or who may have been known to spend considerable amounts of time in those areas.

People who know the suspect may not believe that he is capable of committing these crimes. He may not necessarily have a violent criminal history. Because investigators are in possession of DNA evidence that can either positively link the suspect to his crimes or exclude innocent parties, citizens should not hesitate to provide information, even if it is just the name of a potential suspect.

The digital media campaign includes the launch of a dedicated website; digital billboards up and down the East Coast; social media alerts on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube; as well as podcasts on iTunes and radio spots to raise awareness of the investigation. The multi-pronged effort is designed to develop new leads and raise awareness of the ongoing cold-case investigation. The campaign implements similar techniques that have led to the arrests in cases including the East Coast Rapist as well as Ten Most Wanted fugitive Whitey Bulger.

Law enforcement agencies are asking anyone with information to contact MPD at (202) 727-9099 or the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324). Additionally, anonymous information may be submitted to the police department’s TEXT TIP LINE by text messaging 50411.