On Monday the Houston Police Department announced that they had arrested and charged a suspect they believe may have raped as many as 15 women and possibly more in the Fifth Ward area since 2012.
For now, 33-year-old Marquis Tate is charged with eight counts of aggravated sexual assault and held on a $75,000 bond for each count. Investigators with HPD's Special Victims Unit arrested Tate after DNA analysis linked him to five cases and victims identified him in a photo-lineup in two others (two of the eight counts arise from the same victim). Officer Monica Fortson said that other victims were either afraid to come forward or continue with the investigation—many were prostitutes, she said—or were too hard to locate.
Fortson started investigating the case in March after she received 13 sexual assault cases that revealed stark similarities: They all had similar descriptions of the assailant, of his vehicle and even its license plate, of the location, and of the way the man lured them into his vehicle. Fortson said he would approach women from his car who were walking alone or waiting at a dark bus stop. He would ask them if they needed a ride, or if they wanted to make some money. Fortson believes he was targeting prostitutes, though she said that wasn't the case for all the victims.
If the women didn't comply with the man's advances, Fortson said, then he would force them into his car at knife point—in two cases, with a gun—and drive them a short distance where they couldn't be seen. He would then physically assault them and rape them.
Although the first case matching this description was in 2012, there was a two-year gap until another case in February 2014, followed by yet another gap until August 2015. At that point, the reported assaults continued frequently until the last in April 2016. Fortson said she was able to confirm through work history that Tate, her primary suspect in every case, was living out of state during the two-year gap and working for a temp agency in Fort Worth through most of last year until he returned in August.
She tracked Tate down after successfully identifying Tate's vehicle based on information from several of the witnesses. She first found the man who had sold it to him in Fort Worth, who gave her Tate's name and contact information. They found Tate living at a relative's home a few blocks from Minute Maid Park in east downtown Houston.
Tate does have a history of soliciting prostitutes; in May 2015, he was charged with the offense after soliciting an undercover police officer.
Fortson says she believes there are more victims out there who may not have filed the report. Just before she came downstairs for the press conference, she said she received a phone call from the 2012 victim, who had been working as a prostitute. “She was afraid to report the crime because she didn't think she would be believed,” Fortson said. “our division starts by believing. That is the foundation where we start our investigations from, and that's how we treat all of the people who file sexual assaults in our division.”
With that, she encouraged every woman or man who has been sexually assaulted to come forward and report it, and to rest assured that she and her team will investigate what happened to them.
Fortson offered her team's contact information for any and all victims: HPD Special Victims Division- Adult Sex Crimes Unit at 713-308-1180.
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