Hacienda Heights

Authorities Seek Possible Additional Victims in Serial Rape Investigation

The investigation began in February 2021 when deputies responded to a reported rape involving two women in the Hacienda Heights area.

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Authorities are investigating whether there are additional victims who were sexually assaulted by a man under arrest in connection with February 2021 attacks in Hacienda Heights.

The suspect in those attacks, identified as 21-year-old Michael Watson, was arrested Nov. 18 in the Antelope Valley.

The investigation began in February 2021, when deputies responded to a reported rape involving two women in the 17000 block of Colima Road in the Hacienda Heights area. According to investigators, Watson allegedly befriended the women on Instagram and was invited to their home, where he allegedly raped one of them and stole their cell phones.

After leaving the scene, Watson allegedly contacted one of the victims again over social media and issued a series of threats, including extorting money from her by threatening to post nude images online that he had accessed on one of the stolen cell phones, sheriff's officials said.

During the ensuing investigation, DNA evidence linked Watson to similar reported attacks in Los Angeles, Hollywood, East Los Angeles and Inglewood, according to the sheriff's department. Investigators said they eventually linked the suspect to 12 attacks involving 13 female victims -- including four minors. In each case, the suspect would initiate contact with the victims over Instagram and lure them to various locations where they were assaulted, sheriff's officials said.

According to the sheriff's department, Watson was charged by the District Attorney's Office in late September with a series of counts, including sexual assault of a child under 14, forcible rape, assault with a deadly weapon, attempted extortion and grand theft.

He remains jailed in lieu of $1.8 million bail, sheriff's officials said.

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In a statement, sheriff's officials said that based on the "nature of the offenses," detectives believe there may be additional victims.

Watson was accused of demanding victims' phones at gunpoint, obtaining their login information, and then posing as the victims to the victims' friends and family in order to extort them.

During a news conference Wednesday, investigators say he was "very savvy" when it came to social media, and somehow convinced the victims to meet up with him.

Anyone with information was asked to contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Special Victims Bureau at 877-710-5273. Anonymous tips can be made by calling 800-222-8477.

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