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Man shot is named suspect in sex assaults

Saturday, October 12, 2002

By Lori Shontz, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

A man shot by a woman early Thursday in Homewood has emerged as a suspect in a string of recent sex assaults in the East End.

Police said the suspect, a black man in his early 20s, pointed a rifle at the woman in two separate incidents. The second time, the woman, who is licensed to carry a gun, shot him.

Police were unsure of his name but he was listed in a police affidavit as Jerome Prunty, also known as Jevone Prunty. He was arraigned yesterday morning at UPMC Presbyterian on two counts of simple assault and one count of receiving stolen property.

City Magistrate Moira Harrington ordered him held on $66,000 straight bond. The hospital would not release information about his condition.

Although the man did not try to sexually assault the woman who shot him, police are trying to determine whether he is responsible for attacking five other women in East Liberty, Highland Park and Garfield since late September.

Since midweek, undercover officers have searched for suspects who matched a composite image, but police Cmdr. Maurita Bryant said investigations by that special task force were called off last night. Neither she nor other investigators would say whether that was because they believe the suspect is in custody.

In each of the attacks, a woman was approached from behind, just as the woman Thursday morning was. In three of the five incidents, the man mentioned a weapon or the victim saw it. Those attacks, however, occurred a few miles away from Thursday morning's incident.

Police obtained a search warrant yesterday to take DNA samples from the suspect.

Allegheny County Coroner Dr. Cyril Wecht said that any bodily fluid containing cellular material -- blood, semen, sweat or saliva, for instance -- contains DNA that will be present in test results, which usually take five to seven days. He said a mitochondrial test, which usually looks for DNA in hair samples, takes two to three days to complete. Wecht said cellular tests are more accurate, but the mitochondrial test is "still darn good enough for investigative purposes."

According to the police affidavit, at 4:04 Thursday morning a woman was walking on North Murtland Avenue when a man approached her from behind, pointed a rifle at her and told her to stand there while he shot her. The woman pleaded for her life, then ran and screamed for someone to call the police. The man fled.

About 90 minutes later, the woman was walking on Brushton Avenue and noticed two black men talking on a corner. As she walked up a hill, one of the men came up behind her. When he caught up with her, she realized he was the man who had threatened to shoot her.

She said to the man, "This hill gets to you," and the man agreed. At the top, he was out of breath and sat down. She continued walking, more quickly, and then heard someone running behind her. The man pulled a .22-caliber rifle out of his pants and pointed it at her.

The woman, who is licensed to carry a gun, pulled out a .357 revolver and shot the man, who collapsed near some steps. She yelled for someone to call police.

When police arrived, they found the rifle in the grass where he had dropped it. They later discovered that the rifle was stolen on Tuesday.

The suspect, who was shot twice in the abdomen, underwent surgery yesterday morning.

Lori Shontz can be reached at lshontz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1722.

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