Police 'gravely concerned' after DNA links suspect to 3 unsolved child sex assaults over 6 years

Police say they believe the same suspect is behind a series of child-sexual assaults dating back to 2013, all of which have disturbing similarities.

On Wednesday, Waterloo Regional Police Service released another composite image of a suspect in the cases.

The first sexual assault happened on Oct. 20, 2013 at an apartment building in Waterloo.

In that case, a four-year-old girl was sexually assaulted in an apartment building on Barrie Place in Waterloo. Police said a group of children were playing hide and seek outside on a Sunday afternoon, when the four-year-old girl went inside to get a drink of water, was grabbed by an unknown man and sexually assaulted. 

The second occurred on Oct. 27, 2017 at an apartment building on Patricia Avenue in Kitchener. A six-year-old girl had been playing outside with a friend around 7 p.m., police said. When she went inside, she reached a stairwell landing between the second and third floor, was confronted by an unknown man and sexually assaulted, police said.

The third happened on July 6, 2019 on Brybeck Crescent in Kitchener. The victim in that case was a four-year-old girl who had also been playing with friends and was approached by a man and sexually assaulted in the common area of an apartment building.

All three buildings were apartments with uncontrolled access, and the three victims involved were all sexually assaulted in indoor stairwells, according to Waterloo Regional Police Service Insp. Mark Crowell. 

Crowell said police are "gravely concerned" that the offender has been targeting children.

"It's a very bold and brazen offence against these children to commit a sexual assault in amongst neighbourhoods, communities, families," Crowell told reporters at a news conference on Wednesday.

Crowell said he couldn't comment as to whether police are concerned the offender's behaviour will escalate.

"Since the male responsible has not yet been identified we are unable to speculate on his motive or pattern and therefore are unable to identify if his behaviour will escalate," he said.

DNA links suspect

DNA in all three cases linked them to the same offender, police said.

The suspect is described as male, white, about five-foot-ten-inches tall with a medium build.

On Wednesday, officers released yet another image of the person wanted in connection with the case.

A composite image was also released in June 2018. It was created by Parabon Nanolabs in Virginia. The company uses DNA phenotyping to create an image of someone based on their ancestry.

It's the same method that's led to dozens of recent arrests in cold cases in the United States.

The high-profile arrest of the suspected Golden State Killer was made thanks to the technology.

Paula Duhatschek/CBC

'Someone knows something'

Police believe there may be other victims in the Waterloo region area, and police are urging anyone with information to come forward.

"We strongly suspect that someone knows something they've not yet provided to police," Crowell said.

Crowell said police believe the individual was familiar with the areas where the incidents took place, and officers are still investigating the possibility that he may have been an apartment resident.

However, Crowell said the offender could also be from outside the region.

Increased police presence expected

Parents and caregivers are reminded to "be diligent while supervising their children and to immediately call police concerning any suspicious people they see interacting with their children."

In the days to come, Crowell said residents can expect an increased police presence in neighbourhoods across Waterloo region. 

As part of their investigation, police will be working with the OPP Behaviourial Sciences and Analysis Services unit, as well as the Serial Predator Crime Investigations Coordinator — a resource provided by the Minister of the Solicitor General.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 519-570-9777 extension 8666 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Paula Duhatschek/CBC