Derby police: Two assaults in same area

There have now been two sexual attacks in less than two months in the same Derby neighborhood.

It's enough to make one mother tell her 7-year-old son he can no longer ride his bike alone because of "a really mean guy who hurt a lady."

It's enough to make the woman stop walking alone and to carry pepper spray when she does venture out.

Thursday morning, Derby police announced that a man in a ski mask approached a woman in her garage about 9 p.m. Wednesday, threatened her with a knife and sexually assaulted her.

The woman lives in the Glen Hills Addition — the same well-tended, newer neighborhood where another sexual assault occurred in late March.

The attacks occurred at houses 200 to 300 yards apart, Police Chief Robert Lee said.

In the first attack, the woman was raped. The second attack is categorized as a sexual battery, he said.

Police are trying to determine if the two crimes were committed by the same suspect, Lee said, adding, "we have concerns over the similarities... the clothing description, the same neighborhood."

Derby police also are looking at whether the crimes could be linked to other attacks, including one in Wichita early Wednesday morning.

Thursday afternoon, divers searched a retention pond in the Derby neighborhood, looking for possible evidence that could be linked to the latest attack, Lee said. He wouldn't say what kind of evidence might be there. It was an attempt to be as thorough as possible, Lee said.

Later Thursday afternoon, a Derby fire crew extended an aerial ladder almost horizontally over the surface of a second retention pond. A firefighter lay face down at the end of the ladder, peering down into the water below as neighbors stood on the banks and watched.

With all of the attention — from residents, police, fire crews and news media —"this is going to be one of the safest neighborhoods in Derby now," one of the female spectators said.

Other residents say they are taking extra precautions, including closing their garage doors quickly behind them when they pull in and not getting out of the car until they make sure no one is lurking in the garage.

Lee acknowledged that the attacks are a particular concern because they occurred at people's houses and appeared to be committed by a stranger.

"Derby is a very safe community," Lee said. Still, it is "not immune" to violent crime, he said.

Investigators are looking at whether the most recent attack could be related to an incident in Wichita, in which a man reportedly cut a screen in a rear door around 3:10 a.m. Wednesday, entered the house of two women, and demanded sex while holding a knife. He left after one of the women yelled at him, Wichita police said.

The Wichita incident occurred in the 1200 block of East Boston, near Harry and Southeast Boulevard.

In the latest attack in Derby, the suspect is described as a white male, 5 feet 10 inches to 6 feet tall, with a thin to medium build and wearing a black ski mask, black nylon jacket, tight black jeans, black high top tennis shoes and black gloves.

He ran away after the attack.

No vehicle description is available.

Derby police released information about the latest attack as soon as possible so media could help spread the word, Lee said.

Thursday night, officers were going to hand out fliers about the latest crime.

Authorities are asking anyone with information about the case to call the Derby Police Department, 316-788-1557, or Derby Crime Stoppers, 316-788-TIPS.

And the public is responding with information, Lee said Thursday afternoon.

"We're using all available resources to attempt to identify a suspect in this case," he said.

Police had already increased patrols of the neighborhood following the first attack, Lee said.

He said residents should continue to take basic precautions, such as shutting and locking doors and using adequate lighting outside houses.