Law enforcement searching for man who attacked 2 women

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Authorities were hunting Tuesday for a man who posed as a police officer to assault two women a few miles outside West Plains in a mainly rural county in south-central Missouri.

Howell County Sheriff Robbie Crites said the man used a red-and-blue flashing light in his unmarked car and was wearing a blue uniform when he stopped women drivers after dark and attacked them in two incidents earlier this month. The area is about 80 miles southeast of Springfield.

One woman reported she was raped and the other was able to fight the man off, Crites said.

"We're taking this very, very seriously," Crites said. "This guy is betraying the trust the public has in us, and the nature of the crime, actually attacking and unfortunately raping one female, is as serious as we get."

Howell County deputies, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and West Plains police are investigating.

Crites said about two dozen leads have come in from the public since his department released a composite drawing of the impostor Monday.

The man was described as white, 5 feet 8 inches tall, with a stocky build and short, sandy blond-brown hair. He may have scratches or other injuries to his eyes or head and may be driving a light-colored passenger car, possibly similar to a Ford Crown Victoria, according to a news release from the Howell County sheriff's department.

Crites advised drivers who are pulled over to slow down, put on hazard signals and call 911 to verify real police are making the stop. He also said officers will understand if drivers want to move slowly to a well-lit place or an area with witnesses before stopping.

Crites said similar attacks have not been reported in other counties.

The closest case he could recall was a 1990s series of attacks in Arkansas by an assailant dubbed "The Blue-Light Rapist."

Robert Todd Burmingham, 40, was convicted in that case of using a blue police-style light to pull over female drivers so he could rape them. He is serving a prison term of life-plus-40 years.

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