The 24-year-old man accused of sexually assaulting a 91-year-old woman has been arrested.
Ekwunze Job “EJ” Owen Jr. was taken into custody and arrested just after midnight on Wednesday east of the Arizona State University campus. He has been charged in connection with the rape of the elderly woman and a string of other sex crimes in Mesa.
His arrest at an apartment complex ended with a large-scale manhunt. Police said he was with his girlfriend, 25-year-old Alyssa Sherrill, at the time of his arrest; she is not suspected of any wrongdoing.
Owen is believed to have raped the elderly woman on Oct. 18. He is also believed to have attempted to rape another woman last weekend and is accused of an attempted sexual assault and three indecent exposure incidents in Mesa dating all the way back to 2012.
Mesa Police Chief Fran Milstead said that, during the investigation, an established pattern emerged and they realized the suspect was a “serialized criminal.”
Investigators said that since the series of incidents began in Mesa in January of 2012, they had compiled information about trespassing and indecent exposures.
Owen would frequently try to befriend or win the trust of his victims, Milstead said. The 24-year-old would then knock on doors and ask to use the phone or for directions; he would often enter the residences and unlock windows to allow him access when he came back to commit a crime.
While the reported pattern started as “peeping Toms,” Milstead said it transformed into masturbation and ultimately sexual assaults.
Owen’s arrest comes after the attempted rape of a woman in Tempe on Saturday. Police said the woman screamed, after which Owen ran off.
The woman told police she recognized her assailant through sketches of a sexual assault suspect she’d seen on TV. A nearby Circle K had surveillance video of a man who matched the suspect’s description.
On Sunday, a Tempe police officer saw the man and stopped him. During the encounter, police were able to get Owen’s name and a DNA sample, but, due to insufficient evidence at the time, they had to let Owen go.
On Monday night, Tempe Police Lt. Michael Pooley said an analysis showed that Owen’s DNA sample not only matched evidence from the scene of the rape of the 91-year-old woman, but also linked him to an attempted sexual assault and three indecent exposure incidents in Mesa.
Tempe police and Mesa police worked together with U.S. Marshals Service to track Owen down.
“He is somebody we want to get off the streets,” Pooley said, noting that Owen “has shown his propensity to violence and should be considered dangerous.”