AUSTIN (KXAN) - "We've got a predator that is no longer among us," said Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo at a news conference held Thursday night regarding a murder and several assaults that have terrified the north campus neighborhood.
According to police, the DNA that was found at the scene of the attack on New Year's Day in the 300 block of East 31st Street matched several assaults that happened in South Austin from last summer .
On Jan. 12, detectives responded to the 3000 block of Guadalupe Street on a deceased-person call. The victim's roommate returned home after a holiday break and found his roommate, James Loren Brown, 25, dead from an apparent suicide. Police said no evidential reason for the suicide was found during the initial investigation.
During the investigation, the detectives noted that the residence was a short distance from the 3100 block of King Street, which is where Esmeralda Barrera was murdered on Jan. 1, and the separate assault that happened in the same block.
A picture of Brown at his home resembled the composite sketch that had been circulating and Brown also had a similar physical build.
On Jan. 13, detectives returned to Brown's residence and seized several items.
On Jan. 25, DNA scientists were able to confirm that the tests results linked Brown to the East 31st Street case.
Because Brown is linked to that particular case, police believe Brown is also a suspect in the four other unsolved cases in South Austin that have been connected through DNA evidence.
"These were early morning attacks," said Cmdr. Julie O'Brien. "It was a black male suspect. His physical description was very similar in each of these and he attacked women while they were out jogging, or walking -- usually it was jogging -- and would either push or pull them to the ground and then run off."
The circumstances of the four unsolved cases are similar to the circumstances of the assault with injury that occurred about 30 minutes before Barrera's murder and in the same block.
Police said Brown was also a Navy veteran who had only lived in Austin for a 1 1/2 years.
Police said they are currently considering Brown a suspect in Barrera's murder but emphasized they still have a lot of investigative work to do before this is considered a closed case.
"I want to emphasize while we're not saying we've solved the Esmeralda Barrera case, I can say that based on everything we've seen so far, we're sleeping a little bit more comfortably tonight," said Chief Acevedo.
APD said they will continue investigating to determine whether to include Brown as a viable suspect in Esmeralda Barrera's murder or exclude Brown from further consideration.
"We know that when we have a person amongst us that's preying on our community that what's going to bring that person to justice is two things: (1) is good police work and (2) is the community that we serve," Acevedo said.
Police said they are re-interviewing people from similar assault cases to see if Brown was connected to those as well. They said they don't have a motive for the crimes yet but hope to learn more about this suspect as the investigation continues.
APD is asking if anyone saw or had contact with James Loren Brown on New Year's Eve or during the early part of January 2012 to contact the Homicide Tip Line at 512-477-3588.
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