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Fugitive tracked through pay phone

The serial rape suspect had made threats to kill the prosecutor in his case upon his escape, officials said.

Associated Press
Published December 28, 2005


MIAMI - A serial rape suspect who escaped from jail told another inmate he would kill a prosecutor in his case and leave for his native Honduras after his jailbreak, the State Attorney's office said Tuesday.

A tipster led police to Reynaldo E. Rapalo, who escaped from jail Dec. 20 by prying open a ceiling vent, cutting through bars and rappelling down the side of the building using tied-up bed sheets. He was recaptured Monday night at a Miami shopping center.

Rapalo made a brief appearance in court Tuesday. He was denied bail on an escape charge.

While Rapalo was at large, officers guarded prosecutors Joshua Weintraub and Michael Gilfarb, who are handling the case, as well as State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, State Attorney's office spokesman Jose Arrojo said.

Officials also said they had been tracking Rapalo's pay phone calls.

A day after escaping, Rapalo, 34, made a phone call to the father of another inmate, Arrojo said. The father notified authorities, and officials were able to track Rapalo's call to a pay phone.

Other calls made from the pay phone around the same time gave officials a list of numbers Rapalo likely called. One particularly long conversation led officials to monitor calls to that number, which continued to receive calls from local pay phones. On Friday, the State Attorney's office obtained an emergency wiretap of the number.

Investigators began listening to calls to that number on Friday and intercepted calls relevant to the case, Arrojo said. From those conversations, Rapalo's plans after the jailbreak did not appear to be well-defined, Fernandez Rundle said.

Officers chased Rapalo down on foot around 10 p.m. Monday after a tipster called with a description of the fugitive wearing a fuzzy pink sweater under a black sweater at a video store in southwest Miami.

Rapalo is accused of sexually assaulting seven women and girls, ranging from 11 to 79 years old. The rapist terrorized the city's Little Havana and Shenandoah neighborhood in 2002 and 2003.

The tipster who led authorities to Rapalo will get a $36,000 award, police said.