December 22, 2005 - 2:36PM
A massive manhunt was under way in Florida today for accused serial rapist Reynaldo Elias Rapalo, who authorities say escaped last night from jail - by stringing bed sheets together and climbing down to the street.
Police, who dubbed Rapalo the Shenandoah rapist, say he was considered armed and dangerous.
Rapalo, 34, was arrested by Miami police in 2003. The rapes gripped Miami in fear for months.
He is accused of raping seven victims, ages 11 to 79, and attempting to attack four others since September 2002.
"We are so very unhappy he is out there," said Miami police Lieutenant Bill Schwartz, a department spokesman.
"This is unacceptable to us."
A second inmate, Idanio Bravo, 38, facing charges of sexual battery on a minor, also tried to escape with Rapalo. But he suffered two broken ankles and was caught, police say.
Rapalo escaped from an opening in his sixth-floor cell at the Turner-Guilford-Knight Correctional Centre about 9pm yesterday, said Janelle Hall, a Miami-Dade corrections spokeswoman. It is unclear what tools he used to burst out.
It is also unclear who discovered the inmates were missing, and at what time.
Rapalo and Bravo were not cellmates. Investigators are trying to determine how the two men came to try to escape together, Hall said.
Rapalo may have obtained a weapon, although it unclear what kind of weapon, authorities said.
Miami police officers have been assigned to the houses of the victims.
Plainclothes detectives and uniformed officers, aided by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Florida Highway Patrol, are scouring the Miami area looking for Rapalo.
Officers are also monitoring airports and bus terminals.
"We have to assume he had a plan post-escape. Our job is to stay a couple steps ahead of him," said Schwartz, the Miami police spokesman.