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Shenandoah rapist back on the loose


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Manhunt underway for alleged Shenandoah rapist who escaped from Miami-Dade jail

 

BY DAVID OVALLE and LUISA YANEZ

dovalle@herald.com

 

A massive manhunt was underway Wednesday for Reynaldo Elias Rapalo, accused of being Miami's notorious Shenandoah rapist, who authorities say escaped from prison -- by stringing bed sheets together and climbing down to the street.

 

The cops say he is considered armed and dangerous.

 

Rapalo, 34, was arrested by Miami police in 2003. The rapes gripped Miami in fear for months.

 

He is accused of raping seven victims, ages 11 to 79, and attempting to attack four others since September 2002.

 

''We are so very unhappy he is out there,'' said Miami Lt. Bill Schwartz, a department spokesman. ``This is unacceptable to us.''

 

A second inmate, Idanio Bravo, 38, facing charges of sexual battery on a minor, also tried to escape with Rapalo. But he broke his leg and was caught, police say.

 

Rapalo escaped from an opening in his sixth-floor cell at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center about 9 p.m. on Tuesday, said Janelle Hall, a Miami-Dade corrections spokeswoman. It is unclear what tools he used to burst out.

 

It is also unclear who discovered the inmates were missing, and at what time.

 

The jail is located at Northwest 36th Street and 72nd Avenue in an urban neighborhood near Miami International Airport.

 

Rapalo and Bravo were not cellmates. Investigators are trying to determine how they escaped together, Hall said.

 

Rapalo may have obtained a weapon, although it is not clear what that weapon is, authorities said.

 

Miami police officers have been assigned to the houses of the victims. Plainclothes detectives and uniformed officers, aided by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Florida Highway Patrol, are scouring Miami-Dade looking for Rapalo.

 

Officers are also monitoring airports and bus terminals.

 

''We have to assume he had a plan post-escape. Our job is to stay a couple steps ahead of him,'' said Schwartz, the Miami police spokesman.

 

Anyone with information is asked to call Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS.

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/13456811.htm

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the shopping center where they caught him is at 67th and Bird... I drive by there every day and that's where I do groceries at the WinnDixie. I was just there two days ago to get a haircut... that's so nuts.

 

Seriously, it is creepy! I've stopped at the CVS there so many times. A lady I work with who has 2 young daughters lives just 3 blocks from there. This is nowhere near the area where he lived and committed those crimes and nowhere near the jail. He clearly had help getting around and I hope anyone who helped this scumbag gets arrested!

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the shopping center where they caught him is at 67th and Bird... I drive by there every day and that's where I do groceries at the WinnDixie. I was just there two days ago to get a haircut... that's so nuts.

Are you serious? I pass by there at least 3 times a week if not more..... :confused

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Fugitive hid in plain sight

As police tapped phones, suspect sat on bus bench, loitered in laundromat

By SCOTT HIAASEN, LUISA YANEZ AND DAVID OVALLE

shiaasen@MiamiHerald.com

 

While hiding from police during his six-day hiatus from a Miami-Dade County jail, accused rapist Reynaldo E. Rapalo left a digital trail of telephone calls as he tried to enlist friends to help him escape to his native Honduras, investigators said.

 

But help, it seems, was slow in coming to Rapalo.

 

Witnesses said the accused ''Shenandoah Rapist,'' hunted by a police task force after a cinematic Dec. 20 jailbreak, spent the Christmas weekend loitering around a strip mall at Bird Road and Southwest 67th Avenue -- possibly for as long as three days.

 

In the hours before Rapalo was spotted by a passing shopper and arrested Monday night, the fugitive sipped a can of Sprite at a laundromat and sat for hours on a bus bench, witnesses told The Miami Herald.

 

Jonathan Pantoja saw South Florida's most-wanted man sulking behind a Papa John's pizzeria. Pantoja didn't recognize him.

 

''I saw him sitting by the Dumpsters. He was wearing that same blue sweat shirt,'' said Pantoja, who said Rapalo was sitting like The Thinker, fist to forehead. ``Just like that, sitting there doing nothing.''

 

But Rapalo also moved throughout Miami-Dade, perhaps using Metrorail, investigators believe.

 

Investigators said Rapalo made several phone calls to friends while on the lam, and they believe he had help both with the escape and while in hiding. Miami-Dade prosecutors said they hope to charge any accomplices, but it was unclear on Tuesday whether arrests were imminent.

 

Police and prosecutors employed a rarely used law to listen to the phone calls between Rapalo and one associate -- without the prior approval of a judge.

 

OTHER ACCUSATION

 

Before Rapalo fashioned bedsheets into ropes to make his way out of the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center, he told a fellow inmate that he planned to run to his home country of Honduras. He also said he wanted to kill the prosecutor in his rape case first, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fern?ndez Rundle said.

 

''It was clear that he wanted to escape to his homeland, thinking he would be safe there,'' Rundle said.

 

Rapalo, 34, is accused of raping six women and an 11-year-old girl in the Shenandoah and Little Havana neighborhoods in 2002 and 2003. His trial on those charges is scheduled to begin Feb. 3.

 

He escaped about 9:30 p.m. Dec. 20 from the TGK near Miami International Airport. Another inmate, Idanio Bravo, broke his ankles during the escape and was caught.

 

Two Miami-Dade officers captured Rapalo about 10 p.m. Monday, roughly 20 minutes after a tipster recognized Rapalo -- unshaven and thinner than in his original mug shot -- in front of a Blockbuster video store in the same shopping center and phoned Crime Stoppers. The caller described Rapalo's clothes: a pink sweater and blue jeans.

 

Rapalo ran away from police, and first said he was homeless and from Nicaragua. Police found in Rapalo's pocket a small saw they believe he used to cut through jail bars to make his escape.

 

After his arrest, Rapalo told detectives details about his jailbreak and about his days in hiding -- but investigators would not discuss details of Rapalo's police interview on Tuesday.

 

Rapalo was formally charged Tuesday with one count of escape; he pleaded not guilty. He is now being held in a single cell at the main County Jail.

 

Rapalo's lawyer, assistant public defender Herbert Smith, said his client was being treated at a jail clinic after being kicked by police. However, Rapalo was grinning and chatting with detectives before a court hearing Tuesday morning.

 

TRACED CALLS

 

While a police task force pursued tips about possible Rapalo sightings -- Crime Stoppers alone fielded more than 280 calls -- a team of detectives also tried to hunt down Rapalo over the phone lines.

 

The day after his escape, Rapalo called the father of a fellow jail inmate and asked for his help. The father refused and then alerted Miami-Dade police.

 

The police traced that phone call to a pay phone at the Dadeland North Metrorail station. They also discovered about a half-dozen other calls from the pay phone around the same time.

 

Over the following days, detectives traced more phone calls to the same phones from other pay phones -- often late at night or early in the morning. Many of the calls were to a number belonging to an associate of Rapalo's.

 

The investigation intensified on Dec. 22 when a jail inmate told investigators that Rapalo had threatened to kill a prosecutor after escaping.

 

Extra guards were placed at the home of Rundle and the homes of the two prosecutors who were handling Rapalo's rape trial, Joshua Weintraub and Michael Gilfarb.

 

The next morning, the task force traced another suspected Rapalo call to a pay phone near Miami International Airport -- not that far from the State Attorney's Office.

 

RARE MOVE

 

Fearing that Rapalo was heading that way, investigators asked Rundle to take a drastic step: Approve a wiretap of Rapalo's associate's telephone without a prior court order.

 

Florida law allows the state attorney to intercept and record a phone conversation if the circumstances involve ''immediate danger of death'' or injury. The wiretap must be approved by a judge -- the typical procedure designed to protect the rights of citizens -- within 48 hours.

 

''We concluded there was a threat,'' Rundle said. ``I had people in my office that were potentially at risk.''

 

Rundle said she had never approved a warrantless wiretap before, and it appeared few prosecutors ever have. Her staff could find no appeals-court rulings dealing with the law.

 

The wiretap was approved about six hours later by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Israel Reyes. He was on vacation and could not be reached for a comment.

 

$36,000 REWARD

 

While the phone traces and wiretap helped detectives trace Rapalo's pattern -- one that appeared to avoid Little Havana and Shenandoah -- the phones did not lead to Rapalo's arrest.

 

It was an anonymous tipster. That person spotted Rapalo on Monday and will receive a $36,000 reward, police said.

 

Pantoja wishes the reward were his -- and he's not the only one.

 

Dora Irigoyen said she saw Rapalo buy a can of Sprite from a vending machine at the Friendly Coin Wash, which she and her husband own. After Rapalo complained about a leak in the can, she gave him money for another one.

 

''She was face-to-face with him,'' Irigoyen's husband, Marlon, recalled Tuesday. ``She didn't recognize him. She just didn't. He looked different, you know? No one else in here did, either.''

 

http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/13496726.htm

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Detectives: Rapalo Contemplated Rape While On The Run

More Details Come Out About Rapalo's Escape

 

POSTED: 7:23 pm EST December 28, 2005

UPDATED: 7:28 pm EST December 28, 2005

 

MIAMI -- A day and a half after Reynaldo Rapalo was returned to jail, Miami-Dade police say they have learned a lot about his escape and what he did while on the run.

 

Detectives said that after his capture, Rapalo, a man accused of being the Shenandoah Rapist who escaped from jail last week, talked to them for six hours and said he had been cautious not to contact family or friends.

 

Rapalo spent most of the time after he escaped in a shelter he had constructed near Bird Road and 69th Avenue.

 

"He slept on a mattress in a wooded area. He cut down some large brush and camouflaged the area so well that it would be very difficult for somebody to stumble upon him," said Sgt. Robert Perez, of the Miami-Dade police.

 

In some ways, Rapalo might have been a less dangerous escapee than some earlier reports suggested, NBC 6's Nick Bogert reported.

 

"There was no vehicle stolen from the correctional facility, and no gun was involved," said Detective Ralph Duran, of the Miami-Dade police.

 

Reports that Rapalo had told another inmate at the TGK Jail that he wanted to kill the prosecutors trying to put him away for life were taken very seriously. Guards were placed at the prosecutors' homes.

 

"All threats are serious, and when you're dealing with someone who is a violent fugitive, yes, we take precautions for victims. We take precautions for prosecutors, witnesses," said Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle.

 

Detectives said Rapalo told them that while he was on the run, he even contemplated the rape of two women he saw at a Noche Buena party he was observing from afar, Bogert reported.

 

"When the party finished, he saw these two individuals again on the outer portion, and he thought to himself and he actually contemplated committing sexual acts on these two people," Perez said.

 

Authorities said a homeless man Rapalo met on the railroad tracks just outside the jail gave him a little cash, and a woman he called later that first night gave him food.

 

Thanks to wire taps, police traced some of Rapalo's calls to pay phones, but detectives could never nab him midcall.

 

"Trying to track him down to the payphone wasn't working," Fernandez-Rundle said.

 

Authorities described Rapalo as shrewd and cocky, and detectives laughed off any suggestion by Rapalo's attorney that he may have been mistreated or injured during the course of recapture, Bogert reported. Detectives said Rapalo was relatively mellow throughout and even entertained them with a mariachi song he said he'd written in jail.

http://www.nbc6.net/news/5696589/detail.html

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the shopping center where they caught him is at 67th and Bird... I drive by there every day and that's where I do groceries at the WinnDixie. I was just there two days ago to get a haircut... that's so nuts.

 

Seriously, it is creepy! I've stopped at the CVS there so many times. A lady I work with who has 2 young daughters lives just 3 blocks from there. This is nowhere near the area where he lived and committed those crimes and nowhere near the jail. He clearly had help getting around and I hope anyone who helped this scumbag gets arrested!

 

Terrifying.

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