Five college-age women. All confronted in the middle of the night by an intruder inside their homes. There are sexual aspects in each case.
Police are not using the term serial rapist and are not yet prepared to say even that it's the same man, but in nearly each confrontation the description is the same.
He's a tall, heavy-set black man with puffy cheeks and short hair or a shaved head. Authorities released a new sketch on Wednesday.
"We're going to continue to investigate each one of these until we can either eliminate them from being connected or we can prove that they are," Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said.
Evidence that police found directly links two of them.
Police are searching back in their files to see if there are any more related cases.
Mullen said the similarities started to become apparent after two recent cases downtown near the College of Charleston. A woman was raped during a June 14 break-in on Radcliffe Street, and there was a burglary and attempted sexual assault May 27 on
Police found that physical evidence in the Radcliffe Street case is linked to a break-in and rape June 8, 2007, on Mosstree Road in North Charleston.
As police searched for similar cases, they found two more downtown cases from last year.
On April 28, 2007, a Medical University of South Carolina student went to smoke a cigarette on her porch about 2:45 a.m., and as she opened her door, a man pushed his way inside her Vanderhorst Street home, a police report said. Once inside, he threw her onto her bed and removed a light bulb, leaving the room in darkness. He walked around the apartment, took money and fled.
The woman had left bars on Market Street and had walked home, the report said.
A recent college graduate on July 22 of last year left a King Street bar, and when she arrived at her downtown home with a female friend about 2:30 a.m., she set her purse down and her friend went to the restroom.
As she tried to lock the deadbolt at her Felix Street residence, a man forced the door open and shoved her to the ground in the living room. Her friend came out of the bathroom and also was forced to the ground.
The man made one of the women lie atop the other and ran his hands across her legs trying to touch her under her shorts, the report said. Each time the women tried to look up, the intruder slammed their heads back down.
Charleston and North Charleston police are working together to solve the cases, Mullen said. He said authorities are utilizing every resource in an effort to pinpoint a suspect.
The FBI is assisting with analysis, and police are coordinating with the 9th Circuit Solicitor's Office, Mullen said.
He said police also are working with neighborhood associations downtown to get the word out.
"What we're recommending is that everybody keep their doors and windows closed and locked and that they use security systems if they have them," the chief said. "Be cognizant of what's going on around your neighborhood. If you see anything whatsoever that's suspicious, call 911. We want to get out there and check it out."
Said Mullen: "We are doing everything we can to resolve this case. We're taking it very seriously. The safety of the community is our number one priority."