Today’s news:

Astoria police release sketch of suspected rapist

In two recent incidents, the rapist posed as a plumber, said Officer Valerie St. Rose, a Police Department spokeswoman.

The most recent incident occurred last month when the suspect tricked an 11-year-old girl into letting him into her Astoria apartment.

The suspect followed the young girl into her building about 2:45 p.m. Sept. 25 and watched which apartment she entered, said Officer Chris Cottingham, a police spokesman.

He knocked on the door and identified himself as a plumber. When the girl opened the door, he pushed his way into the apartment and sexually assaulted and sodomized the girl, holding a knife to her throat. After raping her, he fled the scene, police said.

The girl, who was not identified because of her age, was later taken to Elmhurst Hospital in stable condition.

Police said they believe the attacker is the same man who may have first struck last year.

On May 19, 1999, a man using the same operating method followed a 9-year-old girl into her building on Jackson Street about 3:30 p.m., and knocked on her apartment door, saying he was checking for water leaks, said Cottingham. He then forced his way into the apartment and removed a knife from the kitchen. Holding the knife to her throat, he proceeded to rape and sodomize the girl, then fled.

Both victims describe the rapist as a light-skinned Hispanic man between the ages of 20 and 30, with short black hair and a thin beard. He stands approximately 5-foot-10 and weighs between 160 and 180 pounds.

The investigation is being handled by the Queens Special Victims Unit, said Cottingham. Anyone with information can call 1-800-577-TIPS. All calls are confidential.

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