Denton resident Earl Leroy Thompson Jr. has been arrested in connection with a string of attempted and actual sexual assaults near the University of North Texas campus and Denton's downtown square.
Scott Fletcher, deputy chief of the Denton Police Department, told the Observer on Tuesday that Thompson confessed and gave significant details to a string of burglaries and attempted sexual assaults. Police decided to charge him with five counts of burglary of a habitation with intent to commit additional felonies because "it is a bit harder to prove the sexual assaults," Fletcher said.
"It's the same way if somebody breaks into a place and commits other felonies," he added. "It's often easier to prove that than the other elements."
The charge of burglary of a habitation charge with intent to commit a felony is a second-degree felony; attempted sexual assault, Fletcher said, is a third-degree felony. The burglaries occurred in the 2200 block of West Oak Street in February, the 1600 block of West Oak Street in May and the 1700 block of West Hickory Street in May.
For weeks, Denton police have been looking for a suspect or suspects who are taller than 6 feet tall, extremely broad and dark-skinned but of unknown race and age. Thompson is 6 feet, 1 inch tall and 280 pounds.
Fletcher said police conducted a joint investigation with the University of North Texas police and dedicated significant resources to surveillance when they became aware of Thompson's suspicious activity in close proximity to the area of the reported assaults.
"We wanted to protect the public first and foremost," Fletcher said. "But it took a while."
Denton is home to both Texas Woman's University and UNT, and young students may be the targets. UNT sent out a warning to students, faculty and staff about the sexual assaults and the police investigation weeks ago. The university said the suspect had no previous relationship with the victims, who may or may not be students.
Denton police said Thompson hadn't been on their radar and had only a minor offense arrest from several years ago, but they declined to provide any other details about the victims.
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After Thompson became a person of interest in May, investigators placed him under intensive surveillance while they continued to pursue forensic evidence. Denton police told the Observer last week that they had been waiting for the DNA test results to determine if one man is connected to several sexual assault offenses in Denton.
On May 31, investigators observed Thompson attempting to enter an apartment in the 400 block of Withers Street. He was unable to enter. Police contacted the potential victim and obtained two arrest warrants, which they served June 2.
Fletcher said police met with Denton County District Attorney Paul Johnson on Tuesday morning to determine what additional charges should be added. They decided to include three additional counts of burglary of a habitation with intent to commit a felony, and more charges may be possible as victims come forward.
Thompson is being held in the Denton County Jail on a $300,000 bond for the initial two charges.