Man Dubbed East Coast Rapist Reportedly Tries to Hang Self

The man authorities have dubbed the East Coast Rapist attempted to hang himself in a New Haven, Conn., jail cell Saturday afternoon, according to the New Haven Register.

Aaron Thomas, 39, was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital and is undergoing a psychiatric examination, according to the paper.

DNA testing has confirmed that an unemployed truck driver arrested Friday in Connecticut is the East Coast Rapist suspected of terrorizing women with sexual assaults in at least four states over 12 years, police said Saturday.

Lt. Julie Johnson said DNA was collected and subsequently matched by the state police forensic lab confirming Thomas was the East Coast Rapist.

New Haven police have a warrant charging Thomas with first-degree sexual assault and risk of injury to a minor and he was being held on $1 million bond, Johnson said. Authorities in Prince William County, Virginia, are charging him with being a fugitive as well as rape and abduction charges and use of a firearm while committing a felony.

The East Coast Rapist is wanted for 17 rapes and other attacks in Connecticut, Maryland, Rhode Island and Virginia that began in 1997. The cases were linked by DNA.

Authorities recently put up electronic billboards in the states where the attacks occurred and neighboring states. U.S. Marshal Joe Faughnan said a tip from Prince William County, Virginia, directed them to Thomas.

It was not known if Thomas had legal representation. Thomas is scheduled to appear Monday in New Haven Superior Court.

Johnson did not take questions during the brief news conference.

A woman who answered the phone where neighbors said Thomas lived with his girlfriend said she was devastated.

"I almost died," the woman told The Associated Press before she hung up without giving her name. "I'm scared to walk out my door. I'm just as innocent as the next person."

The woman, who said she met Thomas outside a hospital where she works, said Thomas' 5-year-old son was crying when he learned of the charges. There was a heavy police presence Saturday as investigators searched the house, a yellow colonial with blue shutters and a security sign on the front lawn.

"It's just shocking to me," said 15-year-old Dashawn Golding, who said his mother is Thomas' girlfriend. "She's crying a lot," he said of his mother.

A neighbor said Thomas was living with a woman at the house in a desirable neighborhood not far from where the mayor lives. The woman, who refused to give her name, said Saturday that Thomas is a truck driver and parked his tractor-trailer in the residential neighborhood, but he seemed to be unemployed and would offer to paint or rake leaves for neighbors.

Thomas was not entirely unknown to law enforcement: He had been arrested in September in Woodbridge, Connecticut, on a larceny charge and was released on $1,000 bond, according to public records.

He had lived previously at addresses in Maryland and Virginia, according to public records.

The assailant eluded police even though the crimes were often committed outdoors, law enforcement officials say.

In some instances, the attacker wore a mask or hooded sweat shirt to conceal his face. He typically approached women outdoors on foot and threatened them with a knife, screwdriver or a handgun, investigators say.

The only attack in New Haven came on Jan. 10, 2007. Police said the suspect entered a 27-year-old woman's bedroom through an open window and threatened to kill her sleeping infant son before assaulting her.

The last known attack occurred on Halloween night in 2009, when two teenagers on their way home in Woodbridge, Virginia, were raped, authorities say.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.