Gwinnett police search for suspected serial rapist

by: Kerry Kavanaugh Updated:

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NORCROSS, Ga. - Gwinnett County police tell Channel 2 Action News a suspected serial rapist used the Internet to lure his victims.

Investigators believe Joseph Tyler Sivonda, 23, is still on the run.

They said he attacked a woman in an unlocked, vacant apartment in a complex off of Beaver Ruin Road. The complex sits just behind Beaver Ridge Elementary School.

Channel 2's Kerry Kavanaugh was there as crime scene technicians combed through the vacant apartment for evidence.

Gwinnett County police believe the unit at the Bradford Apartments in Norcross was the site of numerous sexual assaults.

They believe Sivonda was using the website Backpage.com to arrange the encounters with female escorts he planned to attack.

"When these escorts show up at the designated locations, he produces a handgun and immediately holds them at gun point, robs them and sexually assaults them," Cpl. Jake Smith with the Gwinnett County Police Department said.

The latest victim came forward on Monday. According to a police report, the woman said she saw the man sitting on the stairs to leading to the apartment.

She said she got an uneasy feeling when she entered the apartment and it was empty.

"He's actually acting violently towards them, using the gun just as soon as they encounter each other. These entire encounters take place at gun point," Smith said.

Police attempted to arrest Sivonda on Thursday morning. News Chopper 2 flew overhead as police and the SWAT team moved in on Sivonda's family's apartment. He wasn't there.

"It makes me feel very uneasy. It's cause for alarm," neighbor Steven Chesser told Kavanaugh.

Residents are on edge because police believe Sivonda is still in the area.

"He's done that in three cases that we know about. We suspect that he's done it even more than this," Smith said.

Kavanaugh checked and Sivonda is a convicted felon. The Department of Corrections website said he was released from prison in November, 2012.

Gwinnett County police told Kavanaugh that Sivonda was first arrested in 2006 at the age of 17, for three counts of armed robbery and one count of robbery.