Police believe a woman has misidentified a Decatur resident as the suspect in the reported rape near Emory Village, police said on Monday.
According to a City of Decatur Police Department statement, a male resident of Decatur told police that he was on Erie Avenue near Clairemont Avenue in Decatur at the same date and time – Feb. 21 at around 2 p.m. – that the 17-year-old woman says she saw the suspect accused of raping a female Emory student earlier this month.
Based on interviews with both the male resident and the woman who said she spotted the suspect, investigators now believe that the male resident – not the suspect – is the man that the 17-year-old woman encountered on Saturday.
The suspect in the rape case is also possibly connected with three other open attempted sexual assault cases in DeKalb County, police said.
The Emory Police Department (EPD) released a composite sketch of the suspect this month.
The 17-year-old woman initially said that the man she encountered while walking was the same man as the one pictured in the sketch.
This woman had told police that she walked past the man on Erie Avenue as he walked in the opposite direction, and that the man subsequently turned around and started walking about two feet behind her until she went to a nearby church and waited before returning home.
Now, the male resident is saying that he remembers seeing a young woman “a short distance in front of him” who appeared nervous as he started walking in the other direction.
He told police that he had planned on crossing the street and walking on the other side “because the young lady seemed apprehensive, but she left the area before he had a chance,” the police statement says.
The male resident did not think much of the situation until he read an alert about the suspect in the rape case possibly being seen, police said.
Investigators believe the Decatur resident is the man that was encountered on Erie Avenue based on the location, time frame, physical and clothing descriptions and the details provided by both him and the 17-year-old woman, according to the police statement.
“We want to thank the complainant for being alert and the resident for coming forward to clear up the misunderstanding,” Decatur police said in a statement.
However, the statement adds, “This does NOT mean the suspect in the Emory University and DeKalb County assaults has been apprehended.”
Police will continue to share any potentially useful information with EPD and DeKalb police to assist in their joint investigation, according to the statement.
The suspect in the rape case is described as white and in his late 50s, with a slight hunch in his posture and unshaven.
At the time of the reported rape, police said, he was wearing an orange beanie cap, hoodie and blue jeans.
Anyone with any additional information is encouraged to contact the Decatur Police Department at (404) 373-6551.
– By Jordan Friedman
If you have been affected by sexual assault, abuse in a relationship or stalking, you have support at Emory. Contact Lauren (LB) Bernstein in the Respect Program in the Office of Health Promotion at 404-727-1514 or [email protected] to schedule a confidential consultation.