Alleged garage attacker caught, charged

March 2, 2009 12:23:05 PM PST
Chicago police have arrested and charged a man with attacking a woman in a Loop parking garage last month.Police say that further investigation linked the man to several other similar attacks.

Robert Branch, 41, has now been charged with attacking seven women in downtown parking garages.

Detectives describe Branch as a career criminal whom they say committed his assaults while out on parole, even returning to the locations of his past crimes to commit new ones.

One of the victim's shared her story with ABC7 Chicago.

"When he stepped up to the window I said, 'That's him. That's it. You dog.' I said, 'That's him,'" she said.

With that, a woman who was targeted by a violent robber took her power back. She recounted Sundays how she picked her attacker out of a police line-up just weeks after being assaulted in a downtown parking garage elevator. The attacker stole $30 from her wallet and took the woman's cell phone.

The woman still wished to keep her identity a secret as she bravely told her story, one that is similar to those of the other victims.

"One girl said he ripped the rings off her fingers because she had no money. Another girl fought him back. This little tiny girl was just fighting and lost," the victim said.

Branch won't be hurting anyone else anytime soon. Investigators arrested and charged the Chicago resident with multiple counts of aggravated robbery for attacking at least seven women between December 2008 and February 2009.

Detectives working the case say Branch was paroled in November 2008 after spending 10 years in prison on a robbery conviction.

"One of his prior crimes was at the very same garage where he committed a recent crime," said Chicago police Cmdr. Gary Yamashiroya.

Armed with images from the attacks, police identified Branch while searching through a database of recently released felons. Detective Cruz Reyes says Branch's name was the last one on a list of hundreds of parolees.

"We clicked on it. The picture popped. I showed it to the other detectives who were familiar with the videos. They concurred," Reyes said.

Investigators moved on a tip they received about Branch's whereabouts from someone who knew him.

"As we pulled up to 925 North California, the offender was coming out of the building. He looked at us, and we looked at him, and the chase was on," said Sgt. Ed Wodnicki of the Chicago Police Department.

Two patrol officers eventually took the man into police custody, where he remained Sunday night, much to the relief of the woman was attacked most recently. The victim, who is also a cancer survivor, says while her physical scars from the ordeal are healing, maybe those not-so-visible eventually will as well.

"It changes your life. It just puts fear in you, and you can't trust anybody now," the woman said.

As her alleged attacker appeared in bond court, the woman said, at the time of the incident, she was also recovering from neck surgery. She says the assault has set her back both physically and mentally. The woman also says she is in physical therapy and counseling, just so she can function again with everyday life.