Police nab Marblehead trail assault suspect

February 16, 2017

By GAYLA CAWLEY

MARBLEHEAD — The GPS bracelet that has already linked Mounir Rhoulam, 39, of Swampscott, to a rash of tire slashings and five alleged assaults against women on the Lynn-Swampscott line, has also tied him to an assault last October on the Marblehead Rail Trail.

On Oct. 26, police received a call shortly after 11 a.m. that a man had exposed himself and tried to grab a woman on the portion of the popular 4-mile trail outside Tower School, a private pre-K to 8 school on West Shore Drive. The trail connects Marblehead, Swampscott and Salem.

Rhoulam was arraigned in Lynn District Court Wednesday on charges of open and gross lewdness, indecent exposure and assault. He was also arraigned on numerous other charges stemming from a Jan. 9 arrest by Swampscott Police. After his arrest, police discovered Rhoulam was already on probation, and a GPS ankle bracelet put him in the area of five alleged assaults against women in Swampscott and Lynn.

Police also believe, through the suspect’s GPS bracelet, Rhoulam was in the area of a rash of tire slashings that began in October and ended in January. A total of 32 people reported their tires slashed in Swampscott alone. There have been no tire slashings in the area since Rhoulam’s arrest. Lynn and Saugus Police also reported similar incidents.

Rhoulam was held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing scheduled for Feb. 23.

Police eye Swampscott man in tire slashings

According to court documents, on the date of the incident in Marblehead, the victim told police she was walking alone on the path toward Salem when she saw a man ahead of her on a bike in the area of the Tower School athletic fields. At first, she related, she wasn’t concerned, but became nervous when he got off the bike. She told police the man had exposed and grabbed himself with his right hand, while trying to grab her with his left hand. She jumped back and screamed for help and then the man fled on the bike toward Salem without making physical contact or saying a word, according to the documents.

Several people on the path who heard her yell came to her aid and helped her call 911, but when asked, none of them had seen the incident, according to documents.

Schools were notified of the incident by police, who searched the area with assistance from a Salem K9 unit, but the suspect was not found. Police continued to patrol the rail trail the day after the alleged assault, with no sighting of the suspect the victim described. A woman came forward on the day of the incident after seeing a news broadcast about the alleged assault to relate an odd encounter on the path to police. The woman told police about an encounter she had walking on the path on Oct. 23, when she felt someone behind her and turned to see a man on a bike. She said the man rummaged around in his bag for longer than it should have taken him to find anything, as the bag was very small, and was “panting” while doing so. She was concerned enough to pick up a large rock, and told police she left with the feeling she wanted to tell other walkers or joggers to avoid the trail, according to court documents.

Marblehead Police Sgt. Sean Brady wrote in his report that he spoke with Swampscott Police Sgt. Tim Cassidy on Jan. 12 regarding the arrest of Rhoulam. Brady wrote that Rhoulam, a registered sex offender, is on probation and wears a GPS monitoring bracelet. Police checked Rhoulam’s sex offender registry photo, which matched the description of the suspect from the rail trail assault case, court documents say.

Brady spoke with Rhoulam’s probation officer, who was able to access his whereabouts on Oct. 26. The GPS bracelet placed him in the same location of the encounter with the victim at approximately 11 a.m., according to court documents. The probation officer said Rhoulam had been on probation for a sexual assault conviction out of Revere.

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Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley