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Anchorage police: 'Serial rapist' likely had additional victims

Megan Edge
35-year-old Clifford Lee is charged with multiple counts of sexual assault related to the rapes of four women and the attempted rape of another over the course of about five weeks this summer. Police believe he may have had more victims.

Police on Tuesday referred to an Anchorage man as a "serial rapist" after they say he sexually assaulted at least four women and attempted to rape another over the course of five weeks this summer. 

At a press conference Tuesday afternoon at Anchorage Police Department headquarters, Lt. Anthony Henry with the Special Victims Unit said he is "fairly certain" 35-year-old Clifford Lee had more victims.

"We believe there are other victims out there," Henry said. "We believe that this suspect had committed this crime over a period of months and as a result of that there are victims that probably did not report to the police department yet."

According to information released Tuesday, Lee preyed on "vulnerable women who walked alone, were intoxicated and were primarily in the Midtown to downtown areas of Anchorage." Police said that after the women got into Lee's 2001 black Chevrolet Tahoe, he would drive to unspecified locations in South Anchorage, assault them, and frequently threatened to kill them, occasionally using a recently purchased stun gun to get his victims to comply with his demands.

Though alcohol seems to have been a factor in these cases, Henry said, intoxication isn't the only thing that makes a woman "vulnerable."

"When we talk about vulnerable women, a lot of times women are vulnerable just by the nature of being out and alone," said Henry.

What Henry said is unique and "out of the norm" in the case of Lee is the fact that none of the female victims seemed to have known their attacker, describing each of the assaults as "chance encounters." Henry said sexual assault victims are typically familiar with their attackers.

Lee appears to have also lived in Washington state for an unknown period of time, according to online records and APD. Henry said APD will be working with Washington police as "one part of the investigation." It is unknown if he has more victims outside of Alaska.

The first known attack took place June 24. Lee threatened to kill the victim if she did not comply with his sexual demands, according to a complaint filed Thursday. She reported the incident to police two days later. She claimed an Asian man between the ages of 30 and 35 raped her inside his black SUV.

On July 13, another victim reported being raped and gave a similar description of her attacker. She also told APD he threatened to physically harm her.

Three additional victims came forward in the ensuing weeks. The last reported assault was July 30. Each of the women also described her attacker as a middle-aged Asian man driving a black SUV. The last three victims claimed the man had threatened her with a stun gun.

Henry said APD never informed the public of the series of attacks because until the middle of last week, they were unable to get a solid pattern of behavior and description of the suspect.

"It takes time for that pattern to actually be recognized," said Henry. "In this case there was a lot of descriptions that were vague and don't necessarily match. It takes time for that fact-set to actually develop."

When another victim came forward July 30, Henry said, police were able to see the pattern emerge. He said they held a unit meeting and began to lay out a timeline of events.

Police identified Lee as a suspect after, they say, one of the victims was able to identify a residence where she had been sexually assaulted.

Lee was arrested Thursday by patrol officers in the area of Spenard. Henry said Lee tried to flee in his SUV, but the chase was short-lived.

The complaint states Lee later admitted to all the alleged crimes.

On Saturday, his terms of release from jail were set at $750,000 performance bond, $500,000 cash or corporate appearance bond, and a third-party custodian -- an amount Henry classified as high.

Henry also said he is "confident" the pattern of sexual assaults would have continued if Lee hadn't been arrested when he was.

Any additional victims are urged to come forward by calling police dispatch at 907-786-8900 or the STAR crisis hotline at 907-276-7273.