Philadelphia murder suspect faces more cold-case sexual assault charges

  • Elias Diaz, 46, initially accused of recent knife attacks in Philadelphia, was charged last week in the cold-case rape and murder of medical student Rebecca Park in 2003.
  • Diaz has now been charged in three other unsolved sexual assaults, including two in Fairmount Park in 2003 and one in Pennypack Park in 2007.
  • New charges include rape, attempted rape, kidnapping, attempted kidnapping, aggravated assault and related offenses.

A man accused of slashing people with a large knife in recent weeks while riding a bicycle on a trail in Philadelphia and then charged in the cold-case rape and slaying of a medical student has now been charged in several other high-profile unsolved sexual assaults.

Elias Diaz, 46, was arraigned a week ago on murder, rape and other counts in the 2003 slaying of Rebecca Park. Police said Wednesday he has now been charged in three other cold-case assaults, two in Fairmount Park in 2003 and one in Pennypack Park in 2007. The new charges include rape, attempted rape, kidnapping, attempted kidnapping, aggravated assault, and related offenses, police said.

Diaz was earlier ordered held without bail in Park’s slaying pending a Jan. 8 preliminary hearing. He had been held on aggravated assault and other counts in the attacks or attempted attacks in late November and early December, where police say he used a machete-type knife against people on the Pennypack Park trail.


The Defender Association of Philadelphia, listed as representing him in both the 2003 case and the recent attacks, said earlier there would be no comment on any current or possible future charges.

Elias Diaz, 46, has been charged in connection with knife attacks against victims at a popular Philadelphia trail. Law enforcement sources said he is believed to be the “Fairmount Park Rapist.” (Philadelphia Police Department)

Interim Police Commissioner John Stanford Jr. said earlier that Diaz’s DNA appeared to connect him to the 2003 strangulation killing of Park in the city’s sprawling Fairmount Park and perhaps to several other sexual attacks there. Park, 30, a fourth-year student at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine from Olney, Maryland, vanished after going running in the park in July 2003. Her body was found buried under wood and leaves in a steep hillside in the park, about 200 feet off the road, authorities said.

Police said that crime was linked to the April 2003 rape of a 21-year-old jogger in the park, and in October of that year a 37-year-old woman managed to fight off a man who tried to rape her. In 2007, a 29-year-old woman walking on a path in Pennypack Park was sexually assaulted and robbed, police said.


In 2021, a DNA analysis helped create a series of composite sketches of the man believed responsible for the assaults. Genealogy databases yielded a link to a man named Elias Diaz, but he couldn’t be found. Officials said the suspect just arrested had previous contact with police, but authorities didn’t have his DNA until his arrest in the recent assaults.

Stanford said the two-decade-old Fairmount Park assault cases and Park’s slaying had “haunted” the community and the department.

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