Suspect believed to be the ‘Fairmount Park rapist’ arrested after 20 years, officials tout DNA advancement

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Philadelphia Police announced Tuesday that a man charged in a series of machete attacks last month is also believed to be responsible for a 2003 murder and multiple sexual assaults.

46-year-old Elias Diaz was arrested earlier this week for the November attacks on the Pennypack Trail, where he allegedly slashed multiple people before fleeing on a bike. On Tuesday, investigators also said evidence linked him to the July 13, 2003 killing of Rebecca Park while she was running in Fairmount Park, as well as at least two other attacks that occurred in Fairmount Park back in 2003 and an additional rape in Pennypack Park in 2007.

Investigators said it was actually earlier in the year that they came to believe Diaz was the “Fairmount Park rapist,” but authorities were unable to locate him. First Deputy Commissioner Frank Vanore said officers spoke with dozens of family members scattered across the U.S., many of whom reported being estranged from Diaz.

Police showed various mugshots of 46-year-old Elias Diaz during a press conference on Tuesday, along with the initial sketches when the first crime was reported in 2003. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

“There was information given to us when we started to search for him and they started to search for him, that he was in the area of Kensington. Somebody said he overdosed, no one [had] seen him for a time, so we had no idea where to find him or if he was living at a residence or was unsheltered at that point. We could not find him,” Vanore said.

First Deputy Commissioner Frank Vanore noted during the press conference at least two victims connected to attacks have been contacted. (Cory Sharber/WHYY)

Police said DNA technology connected Diaz to the crimes earlier this year.

  • December 20, 2023
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