Pennypack Park slashings suspect named person of interest in “Fairmount Park Rapist” cold case: Philadelphia police

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The man arrested in the Pennypack Park trail slashings has been named a person of interest in the 2003 “Fairmount Park Rapist” cold case, Philadelphia police said during a news conference on Tuesday. 

The man, 46-year-old Elias Diaz, was arrested on Sunday for a string of assaults on the Pennypack Park trail last month. Two days later, police said they uncovered DNA recovered from Diaz that showed he was involved or a person of interest in the murder of Rebecca Clark in July of 2003. 

“Everything we have at this point leads us to believe that Mr. Diaz is also involved or a person of interest in the murder of Rebecca Park, which occurred in July 2003, as well as two or three other sexual assaults that occurred in Fairmount Park over a period of time,” Interim Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Stanford said.    

Stanford said Diaz could be charged as early as Tuesday night or Wednesday. He added they’re still waiting on final confirmation of the DNA tests. 

Police have been searching for a man known as the “Fairmount Park Rapist,” wanted for raping and killing Clark 20 years ago. 

There were three more attacks in Fairmount Park in 2003, and another in 2007. Police interviews over the years described the suspect to be an “apex predator.”

The alleged slashings at Pennypack Park in Northeast Philadelphia happened in late November. Police claim the victims were all exercising on the trail. Diaz allegedly wielded a knife and was riding a bike during the alleged incidents.

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One incident happened on the 2800 block of Holme Avenue around 8:15 a.m. on Nov. 22. Police allege Diaz cut a man who was running on the trail multiple times. The victim was treated at Nazareth Hospital.

Two days later, around 9 a.m. on Nov. 24, police claim Diaz attacked another person in the 2800 block of Winchester Avenue on the trail. Diaz allegedly attacked a man who was walking on the trail with a knife. The victim suffered wounds to his right arm and hands, and he was treated at Jefferson Torresdale Hospital.

Police said a woman reported in early December an incident involving Diaz that took place on Nov. 25. According to police, the woman came across Diaz around 8:30 a.m. She reported seeing a man riding a black BMX-style bike who began yelling at her. Police claim the man attempted to get something from her, but she was able to escape unharmed.

This is a developing story and will be updated.



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