The attacks, though spread out over 21 years, were strikingly similar.
The stranger pressed a weapon to the woman's back or head. He told her not to scream, that he wouldn't hurt her if she listened. And then he raped her.
Alphonso W. Hill, 56, pleaded guilty yesterday to attacking and sexually assaulting six women in the Towson area between 1978 and 1989. Already serving 15 years in prison for a 1983 rape in Baltimore City, he will be sentenced in November to a consecutive 60-year prison term.
That's not the end of the inquiry.
More than a year after declaring that Hill was a suspect in more than two dozen other rapes in Baltimore County, police are still "aggressively investigating" some unsolved sexual assaults to see whether they are linked to Hill, said Bill Toohey, a spokesman for the county Police Department.
"He's a possible suspect in every unsolved rape case in that time frame," prosecutor Jason League said earlier, "so we're going to look at him on all of those."
Sitting in court for yesterday's plea hearing was the victim in the city attack, Laura Neuman, whose persistence over 19 years in pressing to have her case solved had the surprisingly sweeping effect of leading detectives to arrest Hill in six unsolved sexual assaults in Baltimore County.
"There's a lot of similarities with my own case," she said, after listening to a prosecutor describe each of the six attacks for which Hill admitted responsibility. "To me, it made it clear that he's a serial rapist. You hear that term a lot. But to hear the details, it's clear there was a pattern ... and that he's a threat to society."
If not for Neuman, the arrests in the county cases would have never happened, police and prosecutors acknowledge.
Last year, DNA analysis had revealed that one man was responsible for six unsolved rapes in the county and one in Baltimore City. But the genetic profile of the suspect did not match any DNA sample in the state's database of convicted felons.
One night, the spouse of a detective working on the cases recalled seeing a segment about Neuman's case on 48 Hours during his own police training in Baltimore. The county detective checked whether Hill's DNA had been entered into the state's database. It had not.
The county cases to which Hill pleaded guilty all occurred in Loch Raven and the area around Goucher College. "That was his hunting ground," League said.
Three of the women were attacked in their homes, including two who awoke to find a man on top of them in bed. One woman was raped in the laundry room of her apartment building. Another was attacked while taking out the garbage. And one victim was grabbed as she walked from a Towson pub back to her dorm at Goucher College.
Hill pleaded guilty to six counts of first-degree rape. His 60-year sentence won't begin until he finishes serving the prison term in the city case.
Asked in court whether anyone had offered any inducements to get him to plead guilty, Hill replied, "Just my own conscience, your honor."