Inside the mind of a serial rapist


Emily Rabasto

The Interstate 80 West on-ramp off Madison Avenue where it is presumed that one of the victims was raped.

Cintia Lopez and Cintia Lopez

A woman walks down the street at 4 a.m.

There are few streetlights that give a dim light which creates shadows.

A man walks down the same street, following her to keep a watchful eye.

After 20 minutes of stalking the woman, he decides he’s finally ready to attack.

At approximately 4:20 a.m. she is blitz-attacked. She fights back, but isn’t strong enough to deter the man.

She is then taken down an embankment off Interstate 80 and Watt Avenue,  where she is physically and sexually assaulted.

“It’s interesting how it is taking place out in public,” said Sue Escobar, a criminology professor at Sacramento State University.

“Granted it’s at times very early in the morning, so there’s not a lot of people that are out, but 9 o’clock at night near I-80, that’s still pretty busy.”

Watt Avenue, Madison Avenue and Auburn Boulevard are three of the many streets in Sacramento that are poorly lit, and usually are avoided by pedestrians after dark.

Authorities believe one man, coined “the I-80 rapist,” is responsible for the sexual assaults of three women, each of whom was taken from one of these streets.

The rapes occurred on Sept. 19 at 4:20 a.m., Dec. 10 at 9:15 p.m., and Jan. 8 at 4:30 a.m., according to the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department’s website.

“In general, there isn’t one specific causal factor for any kind of crime. There are a lot of different theories. Some have theorized that it has to do in the developmental process, like somehow an individual’s development was stunted in a way,” said Escobar.

“None of these women know each other,” said Sergeant Lisa Bowman of the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department. “These are all independent cases. From the descriptions they were able to give to our forensic artist, looking at the sketches, you can see that they are all very similar.”

“They are taking risks,” said Escobar. “So it’s somebody who maybe you could argue is possibly planning it, because it may be easier to get victims if they’re out in public, but they still are taking risks because they’re doing out in the open.”

It’s 9:00 p.m. and a woman gets off the bus at a stop on Madison Avenue.

The I-80 rapist is there, and begins to follow her.

The I-80 rapist attacks this woman from behind, as he did the first, and drags her down the embankment to physically and sexually assault her.

While the second rape is being committed, there is more traffic. The woman can hear the passing cars, but she knows that no one will glance toward the embankment. Even if someone did, it’s too dark to see anything. She hears the world continue to move on around her.

“They often use pornography because imagery is something that triggers their thoughts,” said Escobar. “They have this whole fantasy in their head and what they’re trying to do is relive that fantasy.”

With different fantasies come different types of rape.

“There are many types of rape, and not knowing anything about who this person is, I wouldn’t even want to guess what the motivation is,” said Tori Bovard, a human sexuality professor at American River College. “But pretty universally, it’s an act of power where sex is the weapon.”

In some cases, however, sex isn’t the only weapon a sexual predator will use in order to dominate a victim.

At around 4 a.m., another woman walks down the dimly lit Auburn Boulevard. She’s a few miles away from where the first two rapes took place.

There is a car that follows her. The I-80 rapist parks his car and begins to stalk her on foot.

At 4:30 a.m. the I-80 rapist pulls the woman off the street.

“There are different types of rapists,” said Bovard. “Some are more sadistic types of rapists than others.”

The woman fights back in an attempt to get away. The I-80 rapist cuts her, possibly with a box cutter, as he begins to drag her back to his car.

The I-80 rapist drives back to the same general area off Madison Avenue from before, and he physically and sexually assaults the third woman in the span of four months.

“The first (rape) was violent in and of itself,” said Bowman. “He’s becoming increasingly violent and there seems to be no stopping him from doing this. He’s relying
on other means of assaulting the victims.”

A serial rapist feels powerful knowing that he can get away with the acts he’s committed.

Escobar mentioned a few of the many different types of profiles for a sexual predator.

“There are, actually, FBI profilers and others that have come up with different categories of types of sexual serial killers. One category at one time was organized and disorganized. It’s also evolved into ritualistic and impulsive.”

Escobar explained that the names of categories speak for themselves by giving an example. “Someone who’s ritualistic has a whole plan as far as what they’re going to do,” she said.

“It would not be appropriate for us to comment or infer as to what the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department may be doing to investigate the matter or what tools they may be using to solve the case or cases,” said Gina Swankie, FBI public affairs specialist, via email when trying to contact the FBI to speak with a profiler.

Bowman described why it is important to have the sketches of the I-80 rapist out for everyone to see.

“There is always a risk of the person moving away,” said Bowman. “But with crimes like this, it’s about the power they feel and their ego. If they move away it shows that they are cowardly. Safety is the most important part,” of why it’s important to let people know that there is a serial rapist out there. Females need to know about this.

“I think that,” said Escobar, “I’m not really sure (about the motive) because we haven’t gotten a lot of information other than what we know about the sketches and when they occurred, and it looks to be like it’s the same person.”

“That person could have had some trauma early on in their life,” continued Escobar. “And most of the time if you look into the histories of individuals who have raped, this isn’t everybody, but many of them do have sexual abuse in their history. That is not to say that everybody who was abused as a child will go on to repeat that. In fact, by in large, most don’t.”

“There’s a sense of entitlement that can go in with that (rape culture),” said Bovard. “Basically, there are a lot of these myths. You see it in things from television programs, movies, music videos. Even in lyrics to different songs.”

“With sexual assault criminals it’s about their ego and empowerment,” said Bowman. “It’s a deep-rooted part of their criminal profile. Serial killers have the same sort of ego. (With rapists) it’s not about the sex, it’s about the empowerment.”

To read more on rape culture and myths, click here.