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Bicycle may be clue to solving Hyde Park rapes

Tampa police say they hope a red, single-speed bicycle left at the scene of a rape in Hyde Park on Saturday will lead them to a suspect in a string of six rapes in the South Tampa neighborhood. Police spokesman Steve Cole displayed the bicycle for newspaper and television photographers Monday and asked that anyone who recognizes the bike call police.

"We're just hoping someone will see it and say, "Gee, that's so-and-so's bike,' " Cole said.

The request for the public's help follows the attack early Saturday of a 35-year-old woman in her apartment. An upstairs neighbor called police about 5 a.m. and reported he heard a scream.

Police arrived quickly, and while shining lights around the apartment building noticed the woman at her window. She calmly told police to go to her front door. There, she reported she had just been raped and that her attacker had just left the ground-floor apartment.

Cole said the suspect was holding the woman, and instructed her to tell police to go to her front door. Once they did, the man climbed through a window, Cole said. Police say he entered through a window as well.

"Maybe she should have just screamed the moment she saw the (police) lights, but remember, this woman is still being held by her assailant (and) was very panicked," Cole said.

Police said the suspect is 25 to 30 years old with a medium build.

Saturday's rape, in the area north of Bay-to-Bay Boulevard near Bayshore Boulevard, is the sixth in the Hyde Park area since last July. Cole said police are "as sure as we can be" that all the attacks were by the same man.

"The curious part is, why so long in between (attacks)?" Cole said.

The last attack was reported Jan. 6. The other four happened on Sept. 15, Sept. 4, Aug. 24, and June 6. All were in an area bordered by Bayshore Boulevard, Howard Avenue, Swann Avenue and Kennedy Boulevard.

Concerned residents can attend a special open meeting tonight at 7:30, at the Kate Jackson Civic Center, 821 S. Rome Ave. Detectives involved in the rape investigations will provide as much information as they can, Cole said.