Sun, Apr 19, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Links seen among attacks on three women in hotels

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , BOSTON

US investigators are exploring whether a single assailant is responsible for three late-night attacks, all in hotel rooms, on women who had advertised massage services on Craigslist, the classified advertising Web site.

The latest incident took place on Thursday in Warwick, Rhode Island, where a woman told the police that a man had come to her room at the Holiday Inn Express, held her at gunpoint and demanded money.

The assailant fled when the woman’s husband returned to the room, said Colonel Stephen McCartney, the police chief in Warwick. But the victim’s description of the assailant — tall, blond and clean cut — matched that of the suspect in the shooting death of Julissa Brisman, 26, on Tuesday in her room at the Boston Marriott Copley Place.

Investigators believe that Brisman’s killer robbed another woman at gunpoint on April 10 at the Westin Copley Place hotel, across the street from the Marriott in the city’s affluent Back Bay neighborhood. In that incident, a 29-year-old woman from Las Vegas was bound and robbed of a debit card, US$800 in cash and US$250 in gift cards.

Security cameras at both the Marriott and the Westin recorded a man — also tall, blond and clean cut — leaving the hotels shortly after the attacks are thought to have taken place. In both sets of video frames, the man was calmly peering at his cell phone as he exited.

“It’s a very active investigation right now,” said Elaine Driscoll, a spokeswoman for the Boston police. “We are working closely with the Warwick authorities to determine whether or not there is a connection.”

Jim Buckmaster, the chief executive of Craigslist, said in a statement that the company would work with the police to solve the crimes. But he said that “exceedingly few” crimes had come about because of transactions on Craigslist, despite the fact that 50 million Americans use the service each month.

“There appears to be a psychopath on the loose in the Boston area, and we will of course do everything in our power to assist law enforcement in apprehending the perpetrator as soon as possible,” Buckmaster said. “We are evaluating this incident to see if there are any additional things we could do to better protect Craigslist users.”

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