NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) -- A Connecticut man suspected of rapes along the East Coast since 1997 told investigators he began committing sexual offenses six years before that, two law enforcement officials familiar with the case said Tuesday.
Aaron Thomas pleaded not guilty Tuesday in New Haven Superior Court to a charge of raping a woman in New Haven in 2007 in her apartment in front of her baby. He kept his head lowered during the proceedings.
Thomas was arrested March 4 in his hometown of New Haven after authorities say DNA confirmed he was the so-called East Coast Rapist responsible for rapes and other attacks on 17 women from Virginia to Connecticut.
The 39-year-old Thomas told police he began committing sexual offenses at age 19 in 1991, according to the two officials with direct knowledge of the case who spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter remains under investigation. The nature and number of incidents was not clear.
Thomas' attorney, public defender Joseph Lopez, said he has not seen details of the state's case.
So far, Thomas is charged with one rape in Connecticut and three in Virginia.
The attacks started in 1997 in Forestville, Md., with a rapist pulling a gun on a woman and forcing her into the woods, then fleeing on a 10-speed bicycle. Seven months later, a woman was raped behind a restaurant garbage bin in Maryland; the following year a 16-year-old girl was raped, also in Maryland. Then the rapist began attacking women in Virginia before returning to Maryland in 2001, when for the first time he raped two victims in the same attack.
He resurfaced in 2006 in New England, peeping on a girl doing her homework in Rhode Island before her screams scared him off. Two teenage trick-or-treaters were raped in 2009 in Woodbridge, Va.