SACRAMENTO -- A masked rapist who has attacked 23 women in 19 months has turned a suburban Sacramento neighborhood into a terrorized fortress of guns, guard dogs and expensive alarm systems.
Fear of the rapist, described by police psychiatrists as "inadequately endowed" and possibly in a "homosexual panic," has risen steadily. But his reported threats last week to kill his next two victims sent even outwardly stoic residents searching for more protection.
"We're afraid to go home and when we get there we're afraid to go back outside," said a resident who spent the day installing a $400 alarm system in his house. "It isn't fair -- we've put so many locks on the doors we feel like prisoners in our own homes."
One resident, who requested that he not be identified for fear his family would be singled out by the rapist, said some neighbors carry guns when they walk their dogs in their own back yards.
Others have pistols and rifles ready under their beds. Housewives telephone each other in the morning to make sure they've made it safely through the night.
"This guy is bad," said Sacramento County Undersheriff Bill Miller. "He is dangerous and people should be concerned. There is no doubt that he has caused terror in the community."
Although the activities of the man, dubbed the "East Area rapist," have been confined to a relatively small area of the California capital, his assaults have created apprehension throughout the metropolitan area of approximately 500,000 persons.
So far the ski-masked rapist has not disfigured, cut or beaten any of his victims -- many of them suburban housewives whose husbands were away overnight. But lately he has crept into homes where men are present and ordered them tied up.
Gun, lock and alarm system sales have doubled. Normally well-stocked hardware stores report inventories virtually depleted of door and window locks.
One attorney presented his wife with a nearly wrapped present -- a shotgun with a short barrel. German shepherds and Doberman pinschers are popular new purchases at kennels.
A group of citizen band radio operators planned to start night patrols in the East Sacramento area where homes range in value anywhere from $40,000 to $175,000. They also have offered a $15,000 reward for information leading to the rapist's capture and conviction.
Investigators have compiled thick files of information about the rapist but admit they are no closer to catching him than they were 19 months ago. Neighborhood patrols have been heavily beefed up and some officers volunteer for patrol duty without pay after their regular shifts.
Authorities released a composite sketch of the rapist and were inundated within days with more than 3,000 calls from persons who believed they recognized him.
The rapist is white, between 20 and 30 years old, of medium build with neatly trimmed hair.