Howard County police released yesterday a sketch of a man wanted for the rape of a 21-year-old North Laurel woman and two assaults on women in that area last week.
Investigators would not say whether they were investigating specific leads.
Sgt. Steve Keller, a police spokesman, gave this account of the three incidents:
* The first incident was Wednesday at 3:30 a.m. in the 9600 block of Barrel House Road. A woman -- the county's 13th rape victim this year -- was walking to her home when she was beaten, dragged to a nearby wooded area on Whiskey Run and sexually assaulted.
The suspect was described as a 6-foot-tall black male in his 20s, with a muscular build and short hair.
* Thursday, a man of a similar description grabbed a 25-year-old woman from behind at 3:15 a.m. in the 9500 block of Canterbury Riding. The man pushed the woman to the ground, but he ran when she screamed, police said.
Police say the woman did not report the incident to police until the next day.
* Friday, a 24-year-old woman was grabbed from behind while she was walking toward her home in the 9600 block of Barrel House Road at 4:10 a.m., the same block where the rape victim was grabbed. The suspect fled after the woman cried out for help.
Victims of the rape and the two attacks helped police form a sketch of the suspect. Late last week, officers put up notices in the Whiskey Bottom and Canterbury Riding areas informing residents of the recent attacks.
Some residents, such as Margaret Trigger, say the attacks have prompted them to keep a watchful eye. "It makes me nervous," said Ms. Trigger, 35, who lives in the Canterbury Riding townhouse community. "I'm going to be much more alert."
The attacks have occurred in neighborhoods just east of Route 216, which include apartment buildings and townhouses surrounded by woods.
Apparently, the suspect hides and waits until the victims are off guard, police said.
People returning home late at night should tell their families, roommates or neighbors to watch for them, police said.
"That's asking a lot, but you've got to rely on your neighbors," Sergeant Keller said.
Anyone with information should call the Howard County Police Department's Southern District Station at 313-3700 or the Metro Crime Stoppers Hotline at 276-8888 to qualify for a reward of up to $2,000.