EDNA, Texas – A man suspected of raping several older women in central and southeast Texas is a prison employee who once worked for a home health care agency, authorities say.
Billy Joe Harris, 53, was taken into custody early Saturday morning after Edna police responded to a medical emergency alert from an elderly woman, the Texas Department of Public Safety said in a news release.
DPS officials said police saw Harris running from the woman's home and arrested him after a short pursuit. After the arrest, a DNA sample taken from the suspect linked him to five other assaults in Yoakum, Bell, Falls and Leon counties, DPS said.
Harris was being held in the Jackson County jail on a burglary charge, the agency said.
A Jackson County jail worker referred comment to Edna police. Chief Clinton Wooldridge and DPS spokeswoman Tela Mange did not know if Harris had an attorney.
Harris lives in the Houston suburb of Missouri City and works as a noncommissioned employee for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Rosharon, DPS said. The agency said records indicate Harris was employed by a home health care agency in Houston.
Authorities have been looking for the so-called "Twilight Rapist" since 2009, when they gave the suspect that name after what they believed were as many as 12 rapes, attempted rapes or burglaries mostly around dawn in rural towns in central and southeast Texas. The women ranged in age from 65 to 91 and generally lived alone, authorities said.
One rape victim played piano at her church on Sundays. An 81-year-old woman scared off an intruder with a gun, firing several rounds. A 66-year-old woman was attacked twice, despite having moved across town following the first assault.
Authorities have said the attacks appeared to have been planned — phone lines were cut and porch lights were unscrewed outside some of the victims' homes. One victim had more than $10,000 stolen.
Gov. Rick Perry created the Twilight Rapist Task Force in November 2009, 11 months after the first reported attack in Yoakum, a quiet town surrounded by wide-open ranches about 100 miles east of San Antonio. Saturday's arrest was about 40 miles away in Edna, roughly 100 miles southwest of Houston.
The assailant left behind DNA and other forensic evidence after some attacks, but authorities previously had said they had not been able to link the DNA to anything in the state system.