Prosecutors cleared another hurdle in their attempt to prove what a man with a rope was doing in an Anchorage woman's backyard in July. 

Last Thursday, an Anchorage grand jury indicted 60-year-old Thomas Warren on a class A felony charge of first-degree attempted sexual assault. Warren was also indicted on a felony count of burglary. 

"A chilling similarity"

News of Warren's July arrest in a Chester Creek-area neighborhood shook the Anchorage community. 

According to charging documents, neighbors saw Warren in the area acting strangely, then putting on his hood and gloves and looking through a fence into a woman's backyard.

The neighbors called 911, and when APD arrived, they found Warren inside the locked-up fence. Warren complied with verbal commands, climbing the fence to exit the yard, and then officers arrested him.

"Officers observed mowed grass that was disturbed leading up to the fenced area. Upon entering the backyard, officers observed that the northern most unit had an unsecured and open back sliding door. The door was not fully opened," prosecutors wrote in an information document.

According to the documents, the woman who lives in the home was at work at the time. She returned home and was asked to identify Warren, but didn't know who he was.

 

Anchorage Police arrest Thomas Warren, 60, on July 19, 2018. (Credit: Courtesy photo)

Warren was originally charged with attempted burglary and criminal trespassing, but the initial charging document describes an item he was carrying that gave prosecutors reason to believe they could pursue a more serious charge:

"Warren was handcuffed when an officer observed a rope sticking out of the front of his shorts, the rope was not in knots and when the officer went and pulled the rope out, it came out freely from his waistband," the criminal complaint read. "Warren claimed that the rope was to be used as a belt, but the officers observed that his shorts were securely holding to his waist, there were no belt loops, and the rope was coiled and tucked into his waistband, not around his waist. The rope was approximately 3 + feet long, knotted on both ends, and was made of a softer and more flexible material."

To prosecutors, the seemingly insignificant detail of his latest case is a chilling correlation to his criminal past.

According to court documents, Warren raped multiple women during the 1980s. He was known to break into their homes and wait for them to return. In at least one assault, he used cord or twine to restrain the victim. Anchorage Assistant District Attorney Michael Ebell, who is prosecuting the case, noted Warren's history while pushing for a high-cash bail shortly after Warren's arrest.

"His priors from 1988 when he pled no contest share a chilling similarity to the conduct in this case," Ebell said. 

"The Clipboard Rapist" 

Court records show Warren made no-contest pleas in the rapes of three different women in 1987, as well as an escape charge, for a sentence of 40 years. 

One court document summarizing Warren's previous case says, "In exchange, the State dropped a number of charges, including kidnapping and the robbery charges, and agreed that it would not charge Warren in connection with nine other sexual assaults."

An Anchorage Daily News article dated August 22, 1987, reports Warren's plea of 'no contest' to three rape charges.

The same document describes the assault in which Warren, dubbed "The Clipboard Rapist," gave himself away as a suspect:

"The charges came after Warren unlawfully entered the home of an Anchorage woman, threatened her with a knife, and then, among other things, sexually assaulted her. During the invasion, Warren restrained the woman by binding her with cord or twine. Soon after Warren left the house, the victim freed herself and called police. Because Warren left a notebook in the woman's house, police were able to identify him as her attacker."

According to the plea agreement Warren signed, he was required to provide Anchorage police with taped confessions for the sexual assaults in which he wasn't charged.

The prosecutor at the time, Steve Branchflower, told the Anchorage Daily News "the confessions will be made part of the record so a future parole board will realize they are dealing with a serial rapist." 

"Difficult to prove" 

Prior to Warren's indictment on a charge of attempted rape, he faced a maximum sentence of five years, according to Ebell, who says the attempted sexual assault charge would boost Warren's sentencing range to 99 years, if convicted. 

"The jury's going to have to find beyond a reasonable doubt that he intended to commit burglary under his current charges, or that he intended to commit sexual assault if those charges are eventually brought," Ebell explained in a July interview. "That can be really difficult to prove, but we can use circumstantial evidence, and there are unique circumstances, and this is one where we are allowed — in attempted sexual assault cases — to admit to a jury prior criminal conduct."  

In his own words

In August, KTVA general manager Jerry Bever received a letter appearing to be from Warren in which the man expressed concerns about media coverage of his case and potential negative effects on his right to a fair trial.

 

Warren is currently held on a $10,000 cash bail. He is scheduled to appear for an arraignment on the indicted charges Tuesday, Nov. 13. 

Editor's note: KTVA is not aware of any newsroom staff who live near the home Warren allegedly attempted to burglarize. 

Copyright 2018 KTVA. All rights reserved.

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