An alleged serial rapist has been charged in a string of knife-point attacks spanning the past four months in a south Minneapolis neighborhood that targeted sex workers he contacted online.
Kenyatta D. Buckles, 24, was charged last week in Hennepin County District Court with first-degree criminal sexual conduct, first-degree robbery and second-degree assault in connection with the violent ambush and rape of a woman last month, as well as with the same counts for a similar attack in January.
The charges against Buckles point out that he was well known to police because since late last year he has been suspected in “a series of rapes and robberies that occurred within blocks” of where the women in the criminal complaints were sexually assaulted and robbed in a car just north of Stevens Square Park in the Whittier neighborhood.
Buckles has been targeting escorts as his victims since late last year, finding them on sexually oriented websites, the complaint continued.
He was jailed a week ago soon after the most recent assault on March 18, and remains held in lieu of $750,000 bail ahead of an April 17 court appearance. His defense attorney was not available to respond to the allegations.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said at a news conference Monday that, “We think we’ve put together strong complaints. And if we can prove at trial … this individual will be doing some real time. And it appears that he really deserves it.”
Police Cmdr. Bruce Folkens said at the same media briefing that the women Buckles lured could have been reluctant to come forward because they are sexual assault victims and work as escorts, which puts them in “a very marginalized victim pool. No matter what, our investigators go above and beyond … to put these cases together.”
Folkens could not say whether there are more than the five victims referenced in the complaints, but police would like to talk to anyone who has had similar encounters with Buckles.
A 43-year-old woman said Monday said she is one of Buckles’ victims. She said he contacted her through a website and set up a meeting on Feb. 3 in the same neighborhood where the other attacks were reported.
“He sounded pretty professional, that’s the only reason I went along with it,” said the woman, whose allegations are not part of the charges filed against Buckles to date. The Star Tribune does not identify sexual assault survivors without their consent.
Buckles took her to an empty apartment and raped her at knife-point, telling her at one point, “ ‘Don’t make a sound, and I won’t kill you.’ ”
She said Buckles left in a white sports car, which she reported to police in a 911 call along with the license plate number. “I never heard anything more [from police],” she said, figuring that was because she was an escort.
Police spokesman John Elder said he no record of that woman making a 911 call on that date.
Buckles was charged in 2016 with third-degree criminal sexual conduct after a woman reported waking to him raping her following a gathering near the University of Minnesota. She told him to leave and called police. He fled, and police found him hiding nearby with a used condom in his pocket. He went to trial, where a jury found him not guilty.
Prosecutors had another chance to see Buckles locked up shortly before the rape spree began, when for a fifth time he was accused of violating terms of his probation stemming from his conviction for an armed robbery in Anoka County in 2013.
In September, six weeks before the string of sexual assaults began, Buckles risked the judge imposing the 10-year stayed prison sentence after he was charged tampering with a motor vehicle.
Despite the Anoka County Attorney’s Office recommending prison for Buckles at various times, Judge James Cunningham has consistently chosen instead to continue the original probationary terms.
Last week’s rape charges now bring the number of reported probation violations to six. According to those latest charges in Hennepin County:
Officers met a woman on Feb. 10 near the park who contacted police about being raped nearby by a man she met through a dating app.
She went to an address in the 2100 block of 2nd Avenue S. as the man instructed and waited in the vestibule. He followed in behind her, wrapped his arm around her neck, put a knife to her and led her to a car nearby.
The man raped the woman, and stole her cellphone and cash before leaving.
The charges detail other sexual assaults attributed to Buckles carried out in a similar fashion. He contacts women through escort service ads on various websites, directs them to an address in the neighborhood near his home before pulling a knife, putting on a condom and assaulting them.
The woman targeted on Nov. 6, the earliest of the assaults disclosed in the charges, posted details of her attack on an escort website. In response, “she received responses from 12 women that they had encountered a similar experience,” the complaint said.
Buckles’ run of violent crimes came to an end soon after he raped and robbed a woman at gunpoint on March 18 outside an address in the 2200 block of 4th Avenue S., according to the charges. He raped her and made her video-record it on her cellphone, which he took with him when he fled.
Officers soon located Buckles in a car outside his apartment building. They found ecstasy pills in his pocket and a used condom in his car along with unused condoms. He had on red Nike shoes that were “consistent with” the shoes described by the woman Buckles allegedly raped on Feb. 10, the charging document said.
Along with the 2013 armed robbery case in Anoka County, Buckles’ criminal history includes convictions dating back before he turned 18 for offenses ranging from drug possession to theft.