In a dramatic break in a series of unsolved attacks, a former Uber driver accused of raping a passenger in December has been linked by DNA evidence and witness accounts to five other sexual assaults on the Charles River Esplanade and in South Boston between 2006 and 2010, authorities said Tuesday.
Alejandro Done, 46, has been charged with rape in attacks that Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley described as “violent, predatory assaults,” a series of high-profile crimes that caused widespread public unease.
The earlier attacks received intense news coverage at the time and cast a shadow over the Esplanade, one of the city’s most popular venues. The attacker targeted lone women who were walking late at night during the summer months.
“Despite a dragnet of investigators pursuing every possible lead in and out of Massachusetts, the assailant evaded detection for almost a decade,” Conley said at an afternoon news conference. “Until now.”
On the Esplanade on Tuesday, many said they remembered the attacks and were relieved an arrest had been made. “Today is good news for the people of Boston, and specifically for the women,” said Corinne Lidsky, a garden designer in Boston.
Authorities said they will continue to review other unsolved attacks that match “the pattern and profile” of the five sexual assaults now linked to Done.
Done has been in custody since his arrest in December, when he allegedly picked up an Uber passenger near Boston Common, drove her to a secluded area, then raped and assaulted her. He then dropped her off at her home in Cambridge, according to prosecutors. Afterward, he returned to driving other passengers, discarding the woman’s wallet along the way, prosecutors said.
Done has pleaded not guilty to the Cambridge charges. His lawyer could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
The new developments, connecting him to the past attacks, were announced a day after State Police investigators confirmed that Done’s DNA from the Cambridge case matched forensic evidence from four sexual assaults in Boston.
“There’s no question they are linked,” Conley said. The four assaults occurred July 29, 2006, in South Boston; June 16, 2007, on the Esplanade; July 29, 2007, on the Esplanade; and June 13, 2010, in South Boston.
Done, who lives in Boston, will also face charges of assaulting a woman in July 2009 on the Esplanade, based on witness description and similarities to other attacks. He will probably be arraigned on rape charges in two of five attacks this week, and authorities say they will bring additional charges.
Taken together, Conley said the DNA evidence and witness accounts reflect an “unmistakable pattern of conduct’’ by the suspect. Victims described a man whose height, weight, and appearance were consistent over a period of years.
In the summer of 2007, police released a composite drawing of the suspect, describing him as a black man with a heavy build, and warned the public to be cautious.
At that point, using forensic evidence, police had linked two assaults on the Esplanade and the 2006 attack of a 30-year-old woman in South Boston. In an early-morning attack on July 29, 2007, a woman in her 20s was abducted at knifepoint in the Back Bay and was forced across a footbridge to the Esplanade, where she was sexually assaulted and robbed of her cellphone, money, and a camera, police said.
In May 2008, police issued a new computer-generated sketch of the suspect, and urged witnesses to help solve the case. But a breakthrough would not come for more than seven years.
“We never forgot,” said State Police Colonel Richard McKeon. “Yesterday, we got the break we needed. It brought us closer to securing justice for these victims.”
State Police previously had submitted Done’s DNA to a national database. Then Monday, specialists confirmed the match with the series of unsolved crimes.
Steven Laken, a private DNA specialist, said the process of confirming DNA typically takes months.
“If the person was arrested in December and matched in July, that’s completely reasonable and consistent with what I’ve seen,” Laken said. “It’s not immediate; it’s not like fingerprints.”
Before his arrest in December, Done had no criminal record. He started driving for Uber after passing a background check that included court records, driving history, and sex offender registries, the ride-hailing service said.
On Tuesday, Uber thanked law enforcement for their “continued vigilance.”
“We are grateful that we were able to work closely with law enforcement to assist in their December 2014 investigation that has led to these additional charges,” the company said in a statement.
In the December attack, prosecutors said, Done attacked a passenger after she mistakenly got into the wrong Uber car. GPS records show that Done’s movements match the events described by the victim, prosecutors said.
The suspect’s lawyer has described him as a family man who worked three jobs to support his 11-year-old daughter. Done, a US citizen, was trying to bring his wife to Boston from the Dominican Republic. After his arrest, he lost his job in regulatory compliance at a bank, a relative said.
At the South End apartments where Done had lived, one neighbor said he had seemed nice and was often seen taking his daughter to the bus.
“I couldn’t believe it when I heard,” she said. She gasped when told he was charged in connection to the Esplanade assaults.
“I remember that it was such a big story,” she said. “I guess you just never know.”