Fear gripping Dallas neighborhood after sexual assaults

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by JONATHAN BETZ / WFAA

WFAA

Posted on March 20, 2013 at 10:18 AM

DALLAS — Fear is gripping the Lake Highlands neighborhood in Northeast Dallas, and people there want answers after a series of attacks on women.

A man kicked in a woman's door Tuesday morning on Aldwick Drive and sexually assaulted her, prompting 12 school lockdowns.

Last Friday, another woman was raped in her home on Ferndale Road.

Police have a suspect in custody from a similar attack last month.

Hundreds of people packed a standing-room-only crime information meeting Tuesday night, where officers heard a lot of questions... and a lot of fear.

In homes across Lake Highlands, guards are up and alarms are set.

"It's just scary with everything going on," said homeowner D'Lane Maselunas. "I just want to feel safe in my home."

She is now sure to set the alarm, worried about working at home alone.

"It's a strange feeling, because I've never ... felt that way living here all these years," Maselunas said.

That fear led hundreds to attend a crime meeting Tuesday night. The crowd heard sobering numbers from police officers. Rapes in this neighborhood are up 15 percent.

"I'm just tired of seeing it on the news," said Brandi Mitchell. "Those two rapes really got me."

In just the past month, three women have been sexually assaulted in their homes in a relatively small area of Lake Highlands.

Two of the attacks happened on the same street, but it's unclear whether the same person is responsible.

"Two descriptions that are different, but it could be the same person just described by the victims differently," said Dallas police Chief David Brown. "So two potential suspects out there."

On Tuesday morning, a man kicked in a door and nearly suffocated a woman before she was able to fight him off.

It was the last straw, triggering a lockdown of a dozen nearby schools and a large manhunt by police on horseback and on bicycles.

"My heart almost jumped out of me, you know?" said parent Felicia Erhunnwunsee. "I mean, I was scared."

Police promise additional patrols; some comfort among all the unease.

"It just seems like it should be better than it is in Lake Highlands and all of East Dallas," Mitchell said. "Something needs to be done."

Officers assured those who attended Tuesday's meeting that investigators are reviewing old cases hoping it will get them closer to solving the most recent crimes.

The man in Tuesday morning's attack is described as Hispanic, with light skin, a thin build and a pencil mustache. He was wearing a gray hoodie and black gloves.

The victim scratched him.

The suspect in Friday's attack on Ferndale is believed to be Hispanic with a round face, clean-shaven, wearing gray shorts and a jacket.

Police have set up a hotline for tips at 214-670-4415, and there's a $5,000 reward.

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com

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