DNA evidence from the Nov. 18 sexual assault of a 19-year-old woman driving alone in Bennett Valley may help detectives put an end to a series of attacks on rural Sonoma County roads.
At least 13 women in Sonoma County, including five whose reports were confirmed Tuesday, have been accosted in somewhat similar circumstances since November.
The newest confirmed reports, out of Bennett Valley, all occurred the first week of April and involved an aggressive male driver who closely followed solo women drivers and attempted to make them pull over.
?We?re taking all of them into consideration to keep checking if we are able to link them all together,? said Sgt. Dave Thompson, head of the Sonoma County Sheriff Department?s sex crimes unit, charged with investigating the incidents.
Based on early indications, investigators believe the new Bennett Valley reports will be connected to other incidents in Bennett Valley and Rohnert Park in November and December, the Calistoga Road area in January and February and the Sebastopol area this month.
The suspect in each of the incidents used a similar tactic to attempt to get the women to stop, Thompson said.
?He?s flashing his light and really aggressively pursuing the women,? Thompson said.
Those attacks occurred three times on Bennett Ridge Road, once on Pressley Road and once on Hidden Acres, all in rural Bennett Valley. It brings the total number of women accosted in Sonoma County to 13.
Three women have been physically attacked, one sexually assaulted. All have fought their assailant.
Thompson said the DNA evidence collected in November could halt the attacks if it matches DNA on file in the state?s database.
That could take time. Law enforcement agencies typically wait several months to over a year for results. To speed up the process, Sonoma County sheriff?s investigators sent the evidence to a private lab to be analyzed, Thompson said. Results were recently returned to the Sheriff?s Department and will be forwarded to the state database to see if it matches any DNA on record.
?We want to get this done quickly,? Thompson said.
Women across Sonoma County, particularly those in Bennett Valley and the Sebastopol area, said progress in the case couldn?t come too soon.
?It is such a weird thing to be following women like that and getting violent,? said Marilee Jensen, who sent a warning out to neighbors in her Bennett Valley Homeowner?s Association. ?To be in the car at night, it has everybody concerned.?
Eleven of the encounters, including two assaults, have occurred on rural roads. Two of the encounters occurred in the parking lot of a Rohnert Park apartment complex on Camino Colegio when a man targeted pedestrians.
The description of the man was similar in all the cases, but varied slightly from him having a ?pasty? complexion on Calistoga Road to more of an ?olive? complexion in Sebastopol, Thompson said.
?His age is hard to tell and in some cases his face has been covered,? Thompson said. ?When he has shown his face it has been clean-shaven with no beard or mustache. In each case he had no discernible accent.?
Thompson said the perpetrator has typically worn dark clothing and something that can be used to cover his face like a turtleneck, sweat shirt, ski cap or knit cap.