Monday, March 1, 1999 | 11:13 a.m.
A man believed by Henderson Police to have been the "Green Valley rapist" of the early 1990s has been captured in the parking lot of a New Mexico motel.
However, if Dennis N. Rabbitt, 42, is convicted of being a serial rapist, it won't be for any sexual assaults committed in Southern Nevada.
The statue of limitations for the crimes that were committed in and around the affluent section of Henderson has run out.
The nationwide manhunt for Rabbitt, who has been more recently dubbed St. Louis' "South Side Rapist" after more than two dozen rapes in eastern Missouri, ended with his capture outside the Freeway Inn in Albuquerque after a short foot chase, said Albuquerque police spokesman Capt. Carl Ross.
Rabbitt apparently had been living at the hotel since mid-November, police said. There hadn't been any confirmed sightings of Rabbitt since he was spotted at a Missouri Tigers football game in Columbia, Mo., last November.
Police stumbled on his trail after the mother of a 15-year-old former runaway found Rabbitt's phone and hotel room numbers in her daughter's room.
When police arrived at the hotel and asked him for his name, Rabbitt told them he was Nathan Babbitt. A quick check of his name revealed nothing so police asked him for his Social Security number. He rattled off his own.
Police then discovered the 40 charges involving 11 rapes in St. Louis. Charges also are filed against him in St. Louis, Jefferson and St. Charles counties.
Rabbitt, a construction worker, lived in Las Vegas during the early 1990s but later moved to Cedar Hill, Mo., in Jefferson County. He was never charged with any of the local rapes.
However, police in St. Louis and Henderson have noted similarities in the way the rapes were committed and the similarities in the description of the suspects.
Two St. Louis detectives on Sunday flew to Albuquerque to try to interview Rabbitt.
"We are very, very certain that indeed Dennis Rabbitt, the South Side Rapist, is in custody," St. Louis Police Chief Ron Henderson said. "Now we can take it to the next level."
Neither Chief Henderson nor FBI Agent Wiley D. Thompson would say when Rabbitt would be extradited to St. Louis.
"At some point, we're going to get him. Whether we get him first or whatever, we've got 40 warrants on him," Henderson said. "He's hurt a lot of people. Hopefully the night we put this thing to rest, people will sleep a lot better."
The hunt for Rabbitt began in November. Rabbitt had quit his job at a waste disposal company and disappeared after police investigating a Peeping Tom obtained a sample of his saliva.
A week later, DNA results allegedly linked Rabbitt to assaults by the South Side Rapist, who had terrorized local women since Sept. 12, 1988, police said.
In November, Henderson Police Capt. Richard Perkins said that while the statute of limitations of four years for rape had run out locally, Southern Nevada police could have arrested Rabbitt on the fugitive warrant obtained by Missouri authorities had he come here.
Whether Rabbitt intended to return to Southern Nevada, where he is said to have friends, was not clear, but his arrest in New Mexico indicated that at least he was headed in this direction.
The Henderson case is classified by police as open but inactive.
Should Rabbitt be convicted in Missouri, local authorities can, as Perkins put it "provide closure for the local victims by helping St. Louis authorities prosecute him. And we can help at sentencing."
Evidence on Nevada rapes for which Rabbitt might have been responsible could be presented at a sentencing hearing.
Six years ago, a series of rapes in Henderson generated a lot of local news coverage and widespread community fear. The "Green Valley rapist," as the suspect was dubbed, was linked to as many as seven rapes -- usually at automated teller machines -- from late 1991 through the fall of 1992.
Police now believe that one rapist may have been the culprit in only two or three of those incidents and that the others may have been copycat crimes.
The local rapist approached women at ATMs, took their bank cards and forced them to give him their secret codes so he could rob them. Then, at knifepoint, he raped them.
After a lull of eight months a rapist fitting the description of the earlier attacker returned and in a weekend spree raped three women, two at the same apartment complex.
During the height of the frenzy, Southern Nevada judo instructors reported an increase in the number of new students -- especially females.