By Brian Fraga
Standard-Times staff writer
July 24, 2008 6:00 AM
NEW BEDFORD - A city man who police suspect is responsible for assaulting prostitutes has been charged with kidnapping and raping a woman this week in a North End cemetery.
Arrested Sunday, Eddie Couto, 39, of 93 Swift St. is being held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing Friday in District Court.
He is accused of kidnapping and raping a 27-year-old woman, who police said might have been mistaken for a prostitute, while she was walking home on Ashley Boulevard Sunday evening.
The woman told police the suspect pulled alongside her in a black Ford F-150 pickup truck and offered her a ride to escape the heat.
She accepted the invitation, but Mr. Couto drove in the opposite direction of where he had agreed to take her, police said.
The woman told police that Mr. Couto drove to the old Sacred Heart Cemetery on Mount Pleasant Street, where he raped her.
Police said she ran from the vehicle, but Mr. Couto chased her, tackled her to the ground, punched her in the face and dragged her back to his truck.
The victim said Mr. Couto later dropped her off near Acushnet Avenue.
The victim reported the alleged attack to police officer George Borden, who identified Mr. Couto as a suspect.
He had known of Mr. Couto from previous street-level encounters, police said.
The victim identified Mr. Couto from a photo lineup, court records said.
New Bedford police spokesman Lt. Jeffrey P. Silva said patrol officers had received prior information from street-level sources about Mr. Couto.
"That special population of the community is frequently targeted," Lt. Silva said.
"It's a known fact they're often reticent to come forward because they're drug-dependent, and their personal safety depends on the people they encounter on the street."
Lt. Silva said police are concerned that there might be other victims who have not come forward or who might have had encounters with Mr. Couto but did not know his identity.
Police urge those who have information to contact the tip line at (508) 99-CRIME.