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Transient rapist linked to Central Whidbey crimes

A 25-year-old transient man arrested in Bellingham on suspicion of a vicious rape last week may be the homeless burglar and kidnapper who spooked Central Whidbey residents in the summer of 2002, according to law enforcement officials.

The Bellingham Police report that two transient men took a 34-year-old homeless woman to a transient camp in Bellingham and raped her over a period of 12 hours. They also kicked her repeatedly. She escaped after the men passed out.

Investigators arrested one suspect, 25-year-old Steven Willman, on suspicion of rape. It turned out that he was also a suspect in a similar rape at a transient camp last year.

Bellingham police released a sketch of the second suspect and are asking for help from the public in finding him.

According to Bellingham Police, Willman and the other suspect have traveled all over the West Coast, from California to Canada. One or both of the men may have spent time on Whidbey Island.

Coupeville Marshal Lenny Marlborough said Willman is a “person of interest” in 2002 burglary and kidnapping cases. He said Willman has some similarities to the sketch of the suspect generated in 2002.

Marlborough said a test of DNA collected from a crime scene will give him a more conclusive idea.

The suspect is accused of breaking into a trailer at the Terry Mobile Home Park July 12, 2002 and forcing the elderly resident at knifepoint to get into the victim’s own car. After an aimless drive around town, they returned to the trailer park and the victim escaped.

A week later, the man broke into the home of a retired deputy, but then escaped while the resident was on the phone with a 911 operator.

At least one other Coupeville resident spotted the man gathering wood.

Marlborough said the Marshal’s Office and the Island County Sheriff’s Office spent a great deal of time and effort trying to find the suspect, but to no avail. They found a number of abandoned camping sites he may have stayed at, but not him. Investigators suspected the man was camped out in Rhododendron Park or the old pheasant farm area.

Marlborough asked the King County Sheriff’s Office to help search with a helicopter equipped with infrared. Tracking dogs from Island County and Skagit County sniffed around for him. Deputies beat the bushes.

“We went all out trying to find him,” Marlborough said. “We were chasing everything.”

Marlborough said the other, unidentified transient man Bellingham police are looking for isn’t wanted for anything in Island County that he’s aware of.

Nonetheless, anyone with any information about the suspect should contact Bellingham Police at 360-676-6932. The suspect is described as six feet tall, in his mid-20s, olive skin, long dark hair in a pony tail with a tattoo on his arm. He was last seen wearing a Yankees ball cap and mirrored sunglasses.

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