Residents in this outer NE Portland neighborhood are very glad the cops found this guy and put him behind bars. But, find out how information you can provide might help the DA make an event better case against this thug …
Story by David F. Ashton
Residents generally agree that Wilkes is a pretty quiet neighborhood. Located in the far, northeast corner of Multnomah County – bumping up against Gresham – violent crimes are few.
Many expressed concerns that the area would be underserved by police when their neighborhood was transferred from East Precinct to North Precinct.
But, both neighborhood leaders and the citizens there area now say that, while they’re shocked to learn of heinous crime – a woman raped in her home in the wee hours of August 4 – they’re relieved that Portland Police Bureau (PPB) team members caught the alleged knife-wielding rapist within 30 minutes of its being reported.
About 2:30 a.m., officers responded to a call of a sexual assault that had just occurred in the 2900 block of NE 160th Drive, Detective Jeff Sharp confirmed to East County News, with the bureau’s Sexual Assault Unit. “When dispatchers sent information that the suspect in the sexual assault was possibly still nearby, officers and command staff immediately flooded into the area and set up a perimeter to keep the suspect from escaping, and called in a K-9 officer to track the suspect.”
While many officers were conducting a dragnet to catch the suspect, Sharp told us, others were talking with the victim. What investigators learned shocked them even more: The victim’s children were with her when the suspect confronted her, armed with a knife. “She was moved into another room where she was assaulted,” Sharp said. “The children were not assaulted.”
Alleged rapist seen leaving the house
A few minutes after this incident occurred, the suspect left the residence and was seen outside by the victim’s fiancé, who had just arrived home from work, Sharp reported. When the victim’s fiancé learned what had happened, he immediately called police and provided a description of the suspect.
“North Precinct Lt. John Smith responded to the call,” Sharp recounted. “He saw a man who matched the suspect’s description walking in the area of NE 162nd Avenue and Sandy Boulevard – and took him into custody.”
Chokes on stolen chicken
“We believe the suspect ate a good portion of a ‘rotisserie chicken’ – like you find prepared in a supermarket – when he was in the victim’s residence,” Sharp told us. “It’s not that uncommon that a burglar, once inside a location, will treat themselves to the amenities of the house – in addition to stealing items of value.”
But, apparently the suspect later found his purloined meal unpalatable. “While in the holding cell, the suspect vomited a large quantity of food, including what looked to be pieces of chicken. The emesis was taken as evidence.”
Evidence mounts against suspect
That the accused was a complete stranger to the victim was an unusual factor in this case, Sharp told us. “Typically, sexual assault victims and suspects know one another other. A sexual assault by a ‘stranger’ is rare.”
While building a case against a suspect who commits a random assault is typically challenging, the suspect in this case have given police more clues than a regurgitated chicken.
“The victim was able to identify the suspect – picking out his photo from among several others,” Sharp said. “And, the suspect was wearing a kind of shoe that made a unique impression in the dirt in the home’s back yard. This is a serious Measure 11 offense; detectives are also gathering other forms of evidence that can be used to prosecute this case.”
Police say this man, 23-year-old Thomas Allen Wilcox, has been charged with one count of Rape in the First Degree, one count of Sodomy in the First Degree, one count of Burglary in the First Degree, and one count of Robbery in the First Degree.
Detective asks for your help
Sharp said they found a car broken into in the area that evening, but haven’t proven that this suspect was involved in that – or other crimes. “We’re asking residents who saw suspicious activity on the night of August 4 – or who have experienced a property crime in the area – to call us and report it.”
You can reach Detective Jeff Sharp at (503) 823-0453.
© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News