DALLAS (AP) — A crime-watch volunteer suspected of raping four women in a Dallas neighborhood where as many as nine women may have been attacked by the same man this summer was arrested Tuesday in a Louisiana motel, police said.
Van Dralan Dixson, 38, was arrested in Baton Rouge, La., two days after his car was found abandoned more than 400 miles away in a Dallas suburb, Dallas Police Maj. Jeff Cotner said. Dixson is jailed in Louisiana awaiting his return to Texas.
Police said DNA evidence has so far linked Dixson to four sexual assaults in Dallas' Fair Park neighborhood, where investigators believe one man is responsible for as many as nine sexual assaults since June. The assailant in each case was armed with a handgun, forced his victims to secluded areas and then robbed and sexually assaulted them, according to police.
Dixson was charged with rape in the early 1990s, before he spent more than a decade in prison for a robbery conviction, but that charge was dropped after his accuser was killed by a lightning strike. The prosecutor in that case said the alleged victim reported being held at gunpoint.
Cotner released few details about Dixson's arrest on Tuesday, saying only that "contacts" between Dixson and individuals in Dallas helped track him to the motel. Cotner said more information would be released Wednesday.
Dixson was questioned by police last week and voluntarily submitted a saliva swab for DNA evidence after a tipster identified him as a person of interest. But investigators didn't have enough evidence to hold him at the time, Cotner has said.
Dixson was charged Saturday in one of the attacks, but police found his abandoned car on Sunday.
Arrest warrants charge Dixson with four counts of aggravated sexual assault. DNA test results from two other attacks were pending, while DNA evidence from three more in the inner-city neighborhood were not available, police said.
One of the victims told police her assailant shooed away her two children before attacking her at gunpoint, according to a police affidavit obtained Tuesday by The Dallas Morning News and WFAA-TV.
The woman said a masked man approached her, brandished a handgun and demanded money while she was walking with her children in Fair Park on Aug. 30. When she fumbled with her shirt looking for money, the woman said, the man told her children to leave, and then raped her in a nearby alley.
Neighbors in the area said they were familiar with Dixson as a crime-watch volunteer, and that he would patrol the streets several times a week.
"He just walks every night, all night," one resident, Billy Washington, told Dallas television station WFAA earlier this week. "Every time I would look out my window, or out my door, he was walking."
Dixson has been part of the area's neighborhood crime-watch group, the Mill City Community Association, since January. The group's president, Alendra Lyons, called his arrest a "relief to the community."
"A lot of people have been fearful, of course," Lyons said in an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press. "They've been afraid."
Lyons said she wasn't aware of Dixson's criminal past and that the incident had spurred her group to look into whether it could afford background checks on new volunteers, so "at least we would be aware of what they have dealt with in the past."
Dixson was arrested as recently as last month on a deadly conduct charge, according to Dallas County records. State criminal records show Dixson was convicted of aggravated robbery in 1993. He served more than 10 years in prison, a state prisons spokeswoman said.
Dixson was also accused at that time of rape. The prosecutor in that case, Colleen Skinner, told the AP on Tuesday that she remembered the case because of its unique circumstances, including that the accuser was killed by a lightning strike and had told investigators she was held at gunpoint during the attack.
But the case couldn't be prosecuted without the victim's testimony, Skinner said.
"My hands were tied," she said. "Even if the rape kit had shown he was the perpetrator, I would need a witness to tell the jury that it wasn't consensual. I would need a witness to tell me, 'He forced me.'"
A $15,000 reward has been offered for information leading to arrests and an indictment in the recent cases.