Suspect arrested in Paterson sex assaults

October 5, 2012 4:07:10 AM PDT
Police have arrested Rafael Velez, who was wanted for at least two sexual assaults in Paterson, New Jersey.

Velez, 42, was arrested just after 3:30 on Thursday in Newark on two counts each of aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, possession of a weapon for unlawful purpose and robbery for two separate incidents in Paterson.

In the past three weeks, Velez has allegedly assaulted two teenagers at knifepoint on the top floor of an office building while doctors and lawyers were working on the floors below. Officials say Velez served 16 years in prison for sex assault and kidnapping, and was only recently released.

Paterson police say the incidents happened on Monday and on September 14, on the sixth floor of 129 Market Street, an historic office building in downtown Paterson less than half a block from City Hall.

Velez allegedly threatened the 18- and 19-year-old girls with a knife and told them he would kill their families if they reported the sexual assaults.

"He has targeted young, attractive women and then asked them to come walk with him," Paterson police Lieutenant Richard Reyes said.

On Wednesday afternoon, Paterson police surrounded 18 Market Street after receiving a tip that Velez worked at a textile factory there. Police evacuated the building and searched for three hours, but Velez apparently escaped.

"We searched the entire location and we brought in the K9 unit and we were unable to locate him," Reyes said.

Police are also investigating whether Velez is also responsible for the sexual assault of a 19-year-old woman on McBride Avenue near the Great Falls on Monday.

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