A serial rapist appears to be targeting suburban members of the predominantly black Delta Sigma Theta sorority in Plano and Denton County, prompting warnings that local members not advertise their affiliation with the group.
In each of the four cases over the last 11 months, the attacker struck between 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. at the homes of his victims. The women were in their mid-50s to mid-60s and all were home alone at the time of the attacks in Plano, Coppell and the Denton County community of Shady Shores, where the most recent attack occurred Oct. 14, police said.
During each assault, the man has revealed that he knows personal information about the victim.
Authorities said it's unclear what specifically might be motivating the rapist.
Louis Schlesinger, a professor of forensic psychology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said he has never heard of such an unusual link among serial rape victims. HOW TO HELP Anyone with information can call Plano police at 972-941-2148, Corinth police at 940-498-2017 or Crime Stoppers at 1-877-373-8477.
"It's very unusual that this guy would target people from that sorority," said Schlesinger, whose expertise includes extraordinary crime. "It certainly sounds like he has some beef with that sorority."
Serial rapists generally target their victims based on specific criteria, such as age or vulnerability, he said.
"It's very hard to know if this is from 30 years ago, if this is from now, if this is a revenge thing," Schlesinger said. "Maybe it's just his bizarre way to target women for some reason. There's a common thread in these sorority sisters, these grown-up sorority sisters, that perhaps makes them vulnerable in his mind or desirable for his purposes."
Local police said their focus is on protecting members scattered throughout the region who could be targeted.
"What we're trying to do now is educate these members, let them know that they are at an increased risk and take whatever steps they can to reduce their risk of becoming a victim," said Corinth police Capt. Greg Wilkerson, whose agency handled the Shady Shores case.
Plano police said that they distributed lists of member addresses to area police agencies and that some officers have met with homeowners "just to let you know we're aware and we're watching out for you," said Officer David Tilley, a Plano police spokesman.
North Texas members of Delta Sigma Theta referred all calls to the group's national headquarters in Washington.
Ashley Chaney, a sorority spokeswoman there, said Friday that the organization has not been officially informed that any of the sexual assault victims are members of the group.
"We are following the story very closely, however, and if anything should change, we will have a statement at that time," Chaney said.
Chaney said that the sorority had not contacted any North Texas law enforcement agencies on its own and, to her knowledge, none of the local affiliate Delta Sigma Theta chapters had been in touch with national sorority officials about the matter.
"Until we know something definite, we really don't have a statement to make," Chaney said.
But local chapter leaders sent mass e-mail warnings to area sorority alumni Thursday and Friday.
"I am sure this is alarming and the area DFW Chapter presidents have received many phone calls in reference to these incidents," one e-mail said. "Our national president, national first vice president and regional director are aggressively gathering information to distribute to the chapters."
Though Plano police would not confirm that Delta Sigma Theta is the sorority being targeted, officials did say they had been in contact with local and national members of the affected organization.
Police met with members of the sorority Thursday night.
"These people in this group have been notified all the way up to national," Tilley said. "I even had the national president call me up."
Plano police also released video and photos of a man who could be the suspect or otherwise connected to the second reported attack, which occurred in April in Plano.
The rapist is thought to be a black man, in his late 30s to mid-40s, 5-foot-7 to 6 feet tall and 250 to 300 pounds. He appears to have a thin, well-trimmed beard and short hair, possibly with a receding hairline.
None of the women sustained life-threatening injuries, police said.
The Coppell attack occurred in September. Police in that city declined to provide any details.
In the most recent attack in Shady Shores, the attacker broke into the victim's home around 9:15 p.m., Corinth police say. He did not show a weapon.
"Soror, I cannot say 'don't be alarmed,'" another e-mail alert said. "This is frightening to all and somewhat unbelievable that our sisterhood is being attacked in this manner but most importantly that a female's privacy is being invaded."
Dallas school district trustee Bernadette Nutall is a Delta. She said she received word Friday morning of the attacks.
"I take precaution anyway," she said. "I'm hoping that it's just a coincidence and nobody out there is targeting us."
Police don't think so.
"The chances of four being a coincidence?" Tilley said. "I guess there's a chance, but we don't believe it."
Dallas Morning News staff writers Sarah Kramer and Tawnell D. Hobbs contributed to this report.