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"East Coast rapist" pleads guilty to Virginia attack

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Connecticut man police say is the "the East Coast rapist" who terrorized women for more than a decade pled guilty on Thursday in a 2001 attack on a Virginia woman, the first time someone has taken responsibility for crimes in any of these cases.

Aaron Thomas, 40, of New Haven, Connecticut, pled guilty in Loudoun County Circuit Court to the rape and abduction of a 41-year-old woman, according to online records. He faces a prison sentence of life on these charges. A charge of forcible sodomy was dropped.

On Friday, Thomas is due to have a plea hearing in Virginia's Prince William County on rape, abduction and firearms charges, according to online court records. He is accused there of a 2009 assault on three teenage girls who were returning from Halloween trick or treating.

A plea deal in that case fell through this month, and a trial has been set for January.

Thomas, the son of a District of Columbia police officer, was arrested in March 2011 in New Haven. Police have said that DNA links him to attacks on at least 17 women in Maryland, Virginia, Rhode Island and Connecticut since 1997.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson)

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