Miami police used the photo of an innocent man to find a serial rapist, says the Miami Herald. “I told my guys, look for this guy; this isn’t him, but whoever he is, he looks like this guy,” said Lt. Carlos Alfaro, head of the task force that hunted the rapist. The arrest of Reynaldo Elías Rápalo ended four frustrating months of chasing great tips that evaporated and perfect suspects who didn’t pan out. Police say DNA, fingerprints, and his own confession link Rápalo, to seven rapes. Rápalo, a 32-year-old Honduran, is a dead ringer for the man in the photo.
Here’s how it happened: detectives were out of leads and worried that the rapist would strike again. So they compiled hundreds of driver’s license photos of young Hispanic men who had lived in the area. They asked a victim and a witness to sift through the photos. Both picked the same person. The man was in Arizona at the time, but police distributed fliers to officers combing Southeast Miami for the attacker.
It worked. A veteran detective was on a stakeout when Rápalo happened to drive past him. The officer immediately recognized him from the Arizona man’s photo. After he was captured and told that DNA had implicated him, police said Rápalo confessed to seven rapes and three attempted rapes that he was suspected of committing. No one in the police department had heard of a serial rapist who attacked children as young as 11 and women as old as 79.
In the manhunt, police took voluntary DNA samples from 290 men. “Now that I think about it, we did harass a lot of people,” Alfaro said. “A lot of innocent people.”