Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

US prison worker faces rapes probe

Billy Joe Harris was arrested amid an investigation into a series of rapes (AP)

A Texas prison employee is suspected of being a serial rapist accused of targeting older women after he was caught fleeing an elderly woman's home, authorities have said.

Billy Joe Harris, 53, was taken into custody after Edna police responded to a medical emergency alert from an elderly woman, the Texas Department of Public Safety said.

DPS officials said police saw Harris running from the woman's home and arrested him after a short pursuit. Harris is being held in the Jackson County jail on a burglary charge, the agency said.

After the arrest, a DNA sample taken from the suspect linked him to five other assaults in Yoakum, Bell, Falls and Leon counties, the DPS said.

Harris lives in the Houston suburb of Missouri City and works as a non-commissioned employee for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Rosharon, the DPS said. The agency said records indicate Harris was employed by a home health care agency in Houston.

Authorities have been looking for the so-called "Twilight Rapist" since 2009, when they gave the suspect that name after what they believed were as many as 12 rapes, attempted rapes or burglaries in rural towns in central and south-east Texas. The women ranged in age from 65 to 91 and generally lived alone, authorities said.

One victim played piano at her church on Sundays. An 81-year-old woman scared off an intruder with a gun, firing several rounds. A 66-year-old woman was attacked twice, despite having moved across town following the first assault.

Authorities have said the attacks appeared to have been planned - phone lines were cut and porch lights were unscrewed outside some of the victims' homes. One victim had more than 10,000 dollars stolen.

Governor Rick Perry created the Twilight Rapist Task Force in November 2009, 11 months after the first reported attack in Yoakum, a quiet town surrounded by wide-open ranches about 100 miles east of San Antonio. The suspect's arrest was about 40 miles away in Edna, roughly 100 miles south-west of Houston.

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