MIAMI – Police recaptured an accused serial rapist late Monday, nearly a week after he escaped from jail by climbing down the building on bed sheets.
Authorities chased down Reynaldo E. Rapalo on foot on a southwest Miami street after a tipster called in a sighting near a video store, a Miami-Dade police officer said.
Video taken by local TV station WSVN after the capture showed Rapalo smiling and talking to cops as they walked him out of a building housing the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to a waiting vehicle for the ride back to jail.
Rapalo, 34, is accused of terrorizing the city's Little Havana section and the nearby Shenandoah neighborhood in 2002 and 2003. He was awaiting a February trial that could have sent him to prison for life.
Rapalo and another inmate escaped Dec. 20 after climbing through a vent in the ceiling of a cell and onto a sixth-floor roof, police said. The vent was supposed to be locked, but it had been pried open, and bars blocking it were cut.
Officers scoured neighborhoods, airports, train stations and ports for Rapalo, a Honduran native, and guards were assigned to victims who still live in the area.
Police have said the sawlike tools used in the escape may have been smuggled in, and Rapalo apparently plotted the breakout for months.
"We suspect that he had some help," Parker said. "We took some things off of him -- he still had the blade that he used to escape."
The sawlike blade was found in Rapalo's pocket once he was in custody, detectives said.
"He spoke a little Spanish. He said he was a homeless guy from Nicaragua, that he was worried about immigration. He was trying to mislead us in that direction," Detective Alcides Velez said.
Rapalo was being held for questioning and was scheduled to appear in court Tuesday, Commander Linda O'Brien said.
The other inmate, Idanio Bravo, who was also awaiting trial on sexual assault charges, was captured outside the jail after breaking his legs when he jumped.
Local and federal authorities had been scouring neighborhoods, airports, train stations and ports for Rapalo, a 34-year-old Honduran.
Authorities received more than 280 tips during their search, Parker said. The tipster who ultimately led authorities to Rapalo will get the $36,000 award offered for information leading to Rapalo's arrest, police said.
Two corrections officers were placed on paid administrative leave as part of the investigation. The officers were not accused of being involved in the escape, and they have not been disciplined, said Charles McRay, director of the Miami-Dade Corrections Department.
McRay also ordered that all vents at the jail be welded shut and that lighting be improved.
Rapalo was accused of being the Shenandoah rapist, who was the target of a massive manhunt following attacks on girls and women from age 11 to 79. Police say Rapalo, who was arrested in September 2003, was linked to the rapes by DNA evidence.
During the original search for the rapist, more than 120 men, most of them Hispanic, were stopped by Miami police and asked to volunteer DNA samples, a tactic that was denounced by civil rights activists. Billboards with an artist's rendering of the serial rape suspect were posted throughout the city.
The inability to catch the rapist terrified women and the parents of young girls across the Little Havana area. One victim was 79 years old. Three others were young girls who were attacked in the span of four weeks. An 11-year-old was raped as she arrived home from school.
"The first time he was crying, very remorseful. Now he's cocky and smiling. But guess what, we got him," said Miami Police Chief John Timoney, who had joined the search for Rapalo on his bicycle.
The AP contributed to this report.