Metro

Police link murders to series of rapes in Brockton

Plymouth District Attorney Timothy Cruz believes the same person killed Linda Schufeldt (left) and Ashley Mylett (right).

The Enterprise

Plymouth District Attorney Timothy Cruz believes the same person killed Linda Schufeldt (left) and Ashley Mylett (right).

The brutal attacks began in October 2013.

A man picked up three prostitutes on separate occasions in downtown Brockton, drove to a remote spot, and raped and beat them, authorities said. He left the women along area roadways, where passersby found them and called for help.

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His DNA evidence linked him to the three rapes and then to another horrible crime: the homicide of 20-year-old Ashley Mylett , whose body was found on top of the remains of a second woman, Linda Schufeldt, 51 , in December 2014, the Plymouth district attorney’s office said.

The man, whose identity is unknown, is considered a “person of interest” in Mylett’s slaying. His DNA hasn’t been connected to other crimes since the women’s bodies were found, but the genetic material has been used to create a composite sketch with a relatively new computer-aided process.

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“I hope that someone is able to recognize who this person is,” said Schufeldt’s brother, Larry, 49, who lives in San Bernardino, Calif. “I’m hoping they hurry up and get this man before there’s another victim.”

Plymouth District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz unveiled the composite image of the suspect Tuesday during a news conference. Cruz said investigators don’t have evidence linking the man to other crimes but didn’t rule out the possibility.

“There are real victims in this case,” Cruz said in a telephone interview. “We have an obligation to do everything we can to get a dangerous person off the street.”

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Authorities couldn’t collect DNA from Schufeldt’s remains because they were skeletal, but Cruz said he believes the same person killed her and Mylett. The bodies were found in a wooded area near the Veterans of Foreign War Post 1046 in Brockton.

The office of the chief medical examiner found they died of “homicidal violence of unknown type,” according to their death certificates.

Larry Schufeldt said Thursday that it was “about time” authorities made some progress. He said his sister was living in Quincy when she disappeared in the summer of 2014.

A Navy veteran and mother of five, she was born in Nebraska and lived there and in Colorado in a family of seven children, he said. She moved to Massachusetts with her husband, who grew up here. The couple later divorced, according to Larry Schufeldt.

He said that before his sister disappeared in 2014, she visited their mother in Casper, Wyo.

“She took the Greyhound bus back to Massachusetts,” he said. “No one heard from her after that.”

Jessica Ferreira, who is Linda Schufeldt’s daughter, said the new evidence gave her hope.

“She always wanted to be reunited with us. It was so important to her and now we will never have that opportunity,’’ Ferreira said.

“She may have struggled in her life but she did not deserve to die this brutal death,’’ she said. “I am heartbroken that she suffered and my hope is that this new evidence will be the key to finding the person responsible so I can have the closure I need.”

Attempts by a Globe reporter to locate Mylett’s relatives were unsuccessful.

A friend previously described Mylett, who lived in Brockton, as a woman who longed for a better life and would never go out in public unless her hair and makeup were done.

“She had her demons, but she definitely doesn’t deserve this,” the friend, Natashia Rusconi, told the Globe in 2015.

Investigators have known for about two years that DNA connected the same man forensically to the three rapes and Mylett’s murder, but the DNA did not match the samples of individuals in criminal databases.

In October 2015, Cruz’s office released a forensic artist’s sketch of the possible suspect based on information provided by one of the rape victims. Investigators said the man was in his 20s, about 6 feet tall, weighed 180 pounds, and possibly drove a dark blue or black sports car.

He had been seen in downtown Brockton and might have ties to Easton, prosecutors said.

At the time, authorities said the man was wanted for questioning about several rapes but didn’t disclose his forensic link to Mylett’s death. Cruz said when they released the first sketch authorities believed focusing on the rapes was “sufficient.”

The sketch didn’t generate many leads, and in November Cruz’s office gave some of the DNA to Parabon NanoLabs Inc., in Reston, Va., which used the evidence to predict details about his physical appearance and ancestry.

The analysis found he likely has brown or light brown skin, black or brown eyes, black hair, and few to no freckles. Most of his ancestors came from West Africa, the company found.

Establishing those details allows investigators to exclude people lacking such traits, said Ellen Greytak, Parabon’s director of bioinformatics.

The technology became commercially available in December 2014 and has been used in about 100 cases worldwide, she said.

Massachusetts prosecutors have used it to develop a composite sketch of the assailant wanted in the 1992 rape and murder of Lisa Ziegert , 24, and provide a description of a “person of interest” in the case of Vanessa Marcotte , 27, the Google employee who was slain last summer while jogging near her mother’s home in Princeton.

Cruz said the victims in the Brockton cases had worked as prostitutes and were vulnerable. Investigators have been stymied, he said, in their efforts to solve crimes that struck women on the fringes of society.

“They don’t really trust law enforcement,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s so difficult to get the information that we need.”

Cruz’s office established a dedicated phone line, 508-894-2584, for tips.

Jim Doherty, commander of the VFW post close to where the women’s bodies were discovered, said some members have seen the man’s composite image in news reports.

“Nobody in there has indicated to me that they have recognized the person that was shown,” said Doherty.

Brockton Mayor Bill Carpenter said he’s trying to circulate the image in the Cape Verdean community because of the man’s ties to West African ancestors and the large number of Cape Verdeans who live in the city.

“It’s almost certain that the person we’re looking for is Cape Verdean,” he said. “We really think the Cape Verdean community is going to be key if we’re going to get help from the public in identifying this individual.”

Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.
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