Pay phone calls led to capture of serial rape suspect in Miami
MIAMI – A suspected serial rapist who escaped from jail told another inmate he planned to kill a prosecutor in his case and flee to his native Honduras, authorities said Tuesday.A tip led police to Reynaldo E. Rapalo, who is accused of escaping from a Miami-Dade County jail Dec. 20 by prying open a ceiling vent, cutting through bars and rappelling down the building using tied-together bed sheets. He was captured Monday night at a Miami shopping center.Rapalo, 34, appeared briefly in court Tuesday via closed-circuit camera from jail. He was denied bail on an escape charge.While Rapalo was at large, officers guarded two prosecutors who are handling the case, as well as Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.Officials said they had been tracking Rapalo’s pay phone calls.A day after escaping, Rapalo called an inmate’s father, who notified authorities, said Jose Arrojo, a spokesman for the state attorney’s office. Officials then tracked the call to a pay phone at a commuter rail station.Other calls made from the pay phone around the same time gave investigators a list of numbers Rapalo probably called. Authorities monitored one number in particular that received many calls, believing the caller was Rapalo, Arrojo said.Rapalo had told at least one inmate that his plan after escaping was to return to his native Honduras, but to first kill the prosecutor on his case. Those threats were instrumental in seeking a wiretap of the number, which was for a mobile phone, the state attorney’s office said.The content of the phone conversations were not released, Arrojo said. But Rapalo’s plans after the jailbreak did not appear to be well-defined.”It just appears that his organization plan was much more effective getting out of jail,” Fernandez Rundle said.Officers chased Rapalo on foot late Monday after a tipster called with a description. Rapalo tried to convince officers that he was a homeless man from Nicaragua and was worried about immigration, Detective Alcides Velez said.Rapalo was awaiting a February trial on sexual battery and other charges that could have imprisoned him for life. He is accused of being the “Shenandoah Rapist,” who sexually assaulted seven women and girls ages 11 to 79 in Miami’s Little Havana and Shenandoah neighborhoods in 2002 and 2003. Rapalo was arrested in September 2003 after officers noticed him driving suspiciously.Another inmate, also a sexual assault suspect, tried to escape with Rapalo but broke his legs when jumping and was quickly captured.