Suspect nabbed in latest sex assault 

In a possible break in a yearlong series of assaults, police on Monday announced the arrest of a body shop technician who they say "partially admitted" to attempting to rape a woman last Thursday along South Maple Avenue.

Thanks to a citizen’s tip a day after the Thursday morning assault, South San Francisco police arrested 28-year-old Raul Gutierrez Contreras, described as a transient and illegal immigrant working in a body shop on the 200 block of South Maple, the block of the attack.

Contreras is being held in San Mateo County Jail with a $165,000 bail on charges stemming from Thursday’s incident. Police are in the process of contacting the rest of the victims to present a photo lineup as well as awaiting DNA test results, which could come as early as Friday.

"Right now, we have a pretty good suspect in custody," Sgt. Joni Lee said, adding that Contreras, who will be arraigned this week, denied any culpability in the incidents from the last year but "partially admitted" to Thursday’s assault.

"I can’t say for certain he’s involved in the other assaults. We have to look into that, but there’s a good chance that he may be," Lee said.

Residents and workers in the area between Orange Memorial Park and South Linden Avenue were increasingly anxious about potential attacks, especially after last week’s early morning incident. The attempt Thursday was the fifth in a year that has seen two women raped and three attacked by what local authorities believe is the same man.

In Thursday’s assault, a suspect allegedly approached a 34-year-old woman from behind at 6:30 a.m. near the 200 block of South Maple Avenue. As the woman unlocked the front door to a business, he asked if he could use the phone; he then forced his way inside with her.

A struggle ensued and the suspect sustained a cut over his left eye after she hit him with a metal object. The woman then locked herself inside a smaller room and dialed 911.

The next day, a citizen called police saying her cousin workedwith a man who had a cut above his left eye — an identifying detail from Thursday’s assault that police released in the hope it would lead to a suspect — as well as bruising on his cheek. Police ran a check on Contreras that revealed he had a $5,000 warrant out for his arrest from a drunken driving incident, Lee said.

Police said they are continuing to investigate a possible connection between the suspect and rapes that took place on Feb. 9, 2006, on the 1500 block of Mission Road in Colma and on Nov. 1 on South Linden Avenue near Dollar Avenue.

The attempted rapes include a Sept. 17 assault on a woman using the restroom in Orange Memorial Park during the early morning hours and an assault on a woman in Orange Park, also in November and just days after the rape on South Linden, where the victim was accosted and pushed by a man who tried to grab her.

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