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A fateful meeting at mall Rape victim's tip led to arrest years later

Their eyes locked and, for one terrifying instant, the 21-year old Amherst woman relived the attack she had suffered three days earlier.

As panic set in, she watched as the young man, who seemed to recognize her as well, grabbed the hands of the woman and small child he was with and hurried out of the Boulevard Mall.

"The guy who raped me just walked out the door," the young woman told a family member and girlfriend who were with her.

That was almost 26 years ago, and, at the time, she had no way of knowing she may have just looked into the eyes of the man police now call the Bike Path Killer.

Now in her late 40s and living in the South, she knows her rape in Delaware Park that day in 1981 is the earliest known attack by that same killer, the man police now claim is really Altemio C. Sanchez of Cheektowaga.

The Buffalo State College student had gone to the mall with a girlfriend and family member, eager to take her mind off the rape. It was her first time out of her home since the attack.

Instead, she found herself temporarily alone near one of the mall doors. And then, like a recurring nightmare, eye to eye again with her attacker.

"She claims they locked eyes and were face-to-face," a police official said this week, and that "he had this look of terror on him."

While the man fled, the male relative who was with the victim followed him outside and took down the license plate number of the car he was driving.

A lack of details in the 1981 police report had recently caused cold case investigators to conclude it was the victim who followed her attacker into the mall parking lot.

Deeply shaken, she actually remained inside with her girlfriend, who consoled her. But later, she gathered up the courage to call police with the plate number.

"That's her story, strength and character," the police official said.

The woman, according to police, is relieved her alleged attacker is finally in custody, but she has no desire to go public with her story like other Bike Path victims.

Her story, however, has become part of the larger tale of a killer and rapist who terrorized a community, off and on, for 26 years.

It was her phone call to Buffalo police that led detectives to the West Side home of Wilfredo S. Caraballo, the man who owned the car with the same plate number.

When police told Caraballo they were investigating a rape and asked him who was driving his car that day, he lied, police said.

Instead of admitting it was Sanchez, his nephew, Caraballo told them the 1975 blue Oldsmobile had not been moved in a month because it lacked insurance, police said.

That changed last week when police, going through old files, contacted Caraballo again. This time, investigators say, the uncle told the truth.

Sanchez had borrowed the car. The admission provided one of the crucial pieces of evidence linking his nephew to the bike path crimes.

And this time around, with Sanchez behind bars, authorities are leaving no stone unturned as they fill in gaps in old police records.


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