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Notorious rapist disappears from prison

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DRAPER, Utah -- One of Utah's most notorious rapists disappeared from the Utah State Prison, but authorities said he might still be hidden in one of the nooks and crannies of the facility.

Stephen Van Dam, 35, who has been sent to the prison on three different occasions for rape or aggravated sexual assault, was discovered missing at the noon check Sunday, prison officials said.

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Authorities began a massive search in Salt Lake County and visited several of Van Dam's former friends to see if he might turn up, but prison officials said there was a 60 percent chance he was still hidden somewhere in the prison.

Officials said it would take two full days to check all the possible hiding places in the facility.

Van Dam has admitted to the rape of 22 women in Salt Lake County, but authorities believe he has assaulted more than 30.

Van Dam was first convicted of sexual assault in 1970 and sent to the prison in 1971. He was paroled in 1974, but was sent back to the prison for sexual assault in 1975. He was paroled again in 1982, but arrested on more sexual assault charges in 1983.

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Van Dam faced numerous counts of rape and related charges after his last arrest, but he pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated sexual assault. He was given two terms of five years to life and did not have another parole hearing scheduled until January 1994.

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