A Marin County chef arrested at his Cotati home late Tuesday night is believed to be the man responsible for a series of assaults and attempted assaults on rural Sonoma County roads over the past five months, the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department said.
Thomas Boccaleoni, 44, was being held in the Sonoma County Jail without bail because he remains on probation for similar offenses in San Francisco four years ago, authorities said.
Detectives plan to investigate him in connection with 13 incidents reported on mostly rural roadways since November. He was arrested about 11:15 p.m. Tuesday in connection with two of those cases, sheriff's Lt. Chris Spallino said.
He said authorities anticipated additional charges, but "wanted to get him off the streets as soon as possible."
Katie Black, a Bennett Valley woman who was aggressively followed this month by a man who she said tried to push her off the roadway, was "elated" by the arrest.
"I can't wait to announce it as I go to this rural Sebastopol house tonight for book club," she said Wednesday evening. "A lot of women there are really terrified."
Others expressed similar sentiments.
"Oh my gosh, that is such good news," said Calistoga Road resident Jan Montelli. "Some people don't go to Santa Rosa by themselves anymore, or if they can't get home before dark they don't go. A lot of people were really afraid."
Boccaleoni has been under surveillance for about a week, after tipsters said he resembled a composite drawing of the assailant and law enforcement officials learned of his criminal past, Spallino said.
His photo also has been identified by two of his alleged victims, including one who fought off a man on Sexton Road outside Sebastopol on April 18 after he tried to pull her out of her car, grabbing her by the neck.
Like many of the other victims, the woman pulled over because the motorist flashed his headlights and pulled alongside her to get her attention -- this time saying some fluid was leaking from the back of her car.
As he was attacking, she pushed him partly off and shoved her car into gear, speeding away with the door open, authorities said.
"Obviously, he's been escalating, and our fear was it would only go further," Spallino said.
In other instances, the assailant has told women there had been a motorcycle crash, or simply pulled alongside them and waved them over, sometimes wearing a mask or otherwise covering his face.
A Santa Rosa Junior College student driving home late one night on rural Bennett Valley Road in mid-November was fondled after she pulled to the side of the road, authorities said.
DNA collected in the Bennett Valley Road incident also is being typed, and "we anticipate that coming back to him," Spallino said.
Several other incidents also occurred on Bennett Valley Road or in the vicinity, as well as in the Calistoga/Porter Creek Road area.
Residents there were mostly relieved by the arrest, but said their sense of safety had been altered by the incidents.
"We're helpful people, incredible neighbors," Montelli said. "He made us not want to stop and help people. Our lives are changed."
Two other cases occurred in an apartment parking lot in Rohnert Park, where one woman sitting in her car was accosted by a man who said he needed her cell phone, and another was attacked three days later while walking through the complex.