BAKERSFIELD - After two attacks in two weeks, investigators fear a serial rapist may be on the loose in the east Bakersfield area.
Both attacks are similar. Each happened in an apartment early in the morning. The victims were bound, and in each assault the attacker has a similar description.
The Secret Witness Program is offering up to $5,000 for information leading to the identification of a suspect.
In the latest attack, a man broke into an apartment Thursday in the 2900 block of Virginia Avenue, near Oswell Street.
Detectives said the man forced his way in around 4 a.m. He tied up four people and sexually assaulted two of them.
"It's scary," said Daniel Esperanza. He said his family rarely goes outside after dark."A few weeks ago, I received a letter from our manager that said we have to close our windows and doors," he continued.
One neighbor said last month she caught a man looking in her bedroom window. "When I was putting my clothes on in my room, he was looking in my window. He was a tall black guy with a black hat on," said Keyona Hayden.
The attack on Virginia Avenue is similar to another violent attack four miles away at an apartment on Columbus Street.
Two weeks ago, a woman was bound and raped around 6 a.m., shortly after her husband left for work.
"Something like this scars a family for life," said the rape victim's husband. Detectives believe the same man could be responsible for both attacks.
"We believe, based on some similarities, there's a good possibility these two cases are related and we're talking about the same suspect being responsible for both sexual assaults," said Ray Pruitt, Kern County Sheriff's Department.
The attackers share a similar description. He is described as a man with dark skin, about 6 feet tall with a medium build in his 20s or 30s. In both attacks, detectives say the man wore a ski mask.
Authorities believe the rapist may have been involved in two separate burglaries in March and May, in the same apartment complex where the latest assault happened Thursday morning.
Louis Gill with the Alliance Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault, said familiar places like your home, are where you are most likely to let your guard down.
"Look for people that are out of the ordinary. If you see something that causes a concern, call the police or the sheriff," said Gill. "There's nothing wrong with being too cautious."
Gill said it's up to each potential victim whether it's best to fight back. "If you think that fighting back is going to be the best thing for you and give you the best outcome, that's a choice you need to make," he said. "If you think you need to submit so that you survive, also a good choice, if that's what you need to do."
The Alliance has a 24-hour hotline. The number is 327-1091.
If you have any information about the rape on Columbus Street, call Bakersfield police at 327-7111.
If you know anything about the attack on Virginia Avenue, call the Sheriff's Department at 861-3110.
For both cases, you can also remain anonymous and call the Secret Witness hotline. The number is 322-4040.