The man authorities call the “East Coast Rapist” declined to accept an offered plea deal Tuesday morning, perhaps setting the stage for a January trial in Prince William County.
Aaron Thomas, 41, was scheduled to plead guilty in Prince William Circuit Court to two charges of rape and three charges of abduction in connection with an attack on three teenagers on Halloween in 2009.
But on Tuesday morning, standing in court before Judge Mary Grace O’Brien, Thomas said “I don’t know which way is right or wrong. I’m not sure I know what I’m doing.”
Thomas admitted in an interview with The Washington Post, published Sunday, that he was responsible for the attacks—as well as perhaps 13 or more attacks to which he has been linked by investigators. The attacks with which Thomas has been charged date to the early 1990s and span the Washington area, as well as up and down the East Coast.
Thomas said in the Post interview that he took his girlfriend’s Chrysler 300 sedan to Woodbridge to buy a shirt at a store on Halloween night in 2009. As he drove near his old house, Thomas said, he spotted three teenage girls walking with bags of candy.
He had grabbed a lighter that looked like a gun from his girlfriend’s home and forced the teens into the woods with the lighter in their backs.
Thomas has struggled to explain his actions in interviews, describing the crimes as something that had control over him, and that happened when he felt rejected or adrift.
“There was no thinking. It was just done,” Thomas said, adding that it became a sort of habit.
Prince George’s police have linked five rapes to Thomas, all between 1997 and 2001. Thomas could also face additional trials in Virginia, Maryland and Connecticut, where he allegedly attacked women near places he lived or to which he traveled, often during his work as a truck driver.
The Halloween attacks and ensuing media attention renewed efforts to search for Thomas, who eluded authorities for years.