‘East Coast Rapist’ sentenced to life in prison

MANASSAS, Va. — A Connecticut man accused of being the “East Coast Rapist” in a series of assaults over more than a decade from Rhode Island to Virginia was sentenced to life in prison Friday.

The three life terms, plus 80 years, imposed on Aaron Thomas of New Haven, Conn., followed his guilty plea last year in Manassas for abducting three teenage trick-or-treaters and raping two of them on Halloween 2009 in Prince William County.

At Friday’s sentencing hearing, two of Thomas’ victims testified that they have forgiven him for the attacks. One of the victims made clear, though, that despite the forgiveness she still believed Thomas should never be allowed out of prison.

Thomas, 41, said on the stand that he was “totally blameworthy” in the attacks.

Initially, Thomas’ lawyers had pursued an insanity defense, saying that their client was mutilating himself and complaining of an alternate personality named Erwin. But a court-appointed mental health evaluator concluded Thomas was faking his symptoms.

A psychologist called to testify at Friday’s hearing said Thomas was not insane but that he is a “sexual deviant.”

The Halloween attacks were the last in a series of 17 assaults going back to 1997 that police linked by DNA evidence. Thomas was arrested in Connecticut in March 2011 after a multi-state law enforcement effort.

In the Halloween case, Thomas used a cigarette lighter that looked like a gun to force the trick-or-treaters, who were between the ages of 16 and 17, into a secluded area. He raped two of the girls; a third was able to use her cellphone to send a text message pleading for help. Thomas fled as he heard police sirens approaching.

Thomas is also awaiting sentencing later this month in Loudoun County for a 2001 rape and abduction.

Authorities say Thomas was responsible for incidents in Maryland, Virginia, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

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