BPD sifts tips in investigation of home invasion sex assaults

2013-07-10T16:15:00Z 2013-07-19T06:09:05Z BPD sifts tips in investigation of home invasion sex assaultsBy ZACH BENOIT zbenoit@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

While little new information has surfaced five days after Billings Police Chief Rich St. John detailed a series of home-invasion sexual assaults in Billings since January, police are hopeful that an outpouring of tips from the public will help with the investigation.

"We’ve had a very large volume of Crimestoppers tips that have been coming in from people since last week, and that always helps," Lt. Kevin Iffland said.

St. John said that two detectives assigned full time to the case are still working to sort, analyze and follow up on the tips, which continued to come in Wednesday.

"Right now they are sorting through the numerous tips that are coming in," he said. "We're trying to separate the wheat from the chaff, if you will, and they're still coming in today."

At a press conference last Friday, St. John said police are investigating four sex assaults and a pair of attempted, but thwarted, sex assaults that began Jan. 9 and have continued at least through July 2.

In four of the incidents, an armed man came into young women's homes through unsecured doors or windows, sexually assaulted them and robbed them.

St. John described the investigation as the Police Department's highest priority.

None of the victims could provide much detail about the attacker. He is described as a white male in his mid 20s to mid 30s, weighing less than 200 pounds and less than 6 feet tall with a slender or slim build.

The Montana State University Billings website, where the attacks were first made public in late May in a student advisory, also says that the attacker has light-colored hair. Two of the victims were MSUB students.

The victims, young women in their 20s with a similar hair color and living in similar housing situations, received minor injuries in the assaults but officials have not elaborated further on the extent or nature of those injuries.

No new assaults have been reported since July 2 and no victims of older assaults have stepped forward since that time, Iffland said.

"There's nothing new on the case that we can make public at this time," he added.

Police have declined to release many specifics of the sexual assaults, citing a need to protect the investigation.

St. John said that despite having only a vague suspect description, police hope to continue to gather information in an effort to gather a more complete profile of the attacker.

"The more information we get, the more refined a profile we can get from the experts to help us out," he said. "Right now we're still going off of that initial description."

In light of public concerns over the sex assaults, the Police Department and MSUB will hold a women-only safety course on July 18 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the university's Alterowitz Gymnasium.

The event will detail steps women can take to stay safe, what they can do to protect themselves and how to help keep other people safe. The second half will teach self-defense techniques.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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