‘Bad Breath Rapist’ Is Captured After Nearly 17 Years on the Run

A Massachusetts man who fled during his rape trial in 2007, and was convicted in absentia, had been living for more than a decade with a woman in California who had no idea he was a wanted fugitive, the authorities said.

But the man’s hidden past surfaced on Tuesday, when law enforcement agents in Danville, Calif., about 30 miles east of San Francisco, arrested the man, Tuen Kit Lee, 55, who was known as the “bad breath rapist,” the Massachusetts State Police said.

Mr. Lee, who had fled just before closing arguments at his trial in Quincy, Mass., had been living with the woman, a flower shop owner, in her multimillion-dollar home in Diablo, a community of about 1,200 residents just outside Danville, the state police said.

Chris Tamayo, a senior inspector with the U.S. Marshals Service in Northern California, said that Mr. Lee had initially fled to New York and had then taken a bus to San Francisco, where he met the woman who became his companion for the past 10 years.

They lived together in Diablo but never married and “anything they had was in her name, so he just stayed off the radar,” Mr. Tamayo said.

When he and the woman were stopped by the police on Tuesday, Mr. Lee initially provided a fake name, but he “ultimately confessed when pressed about his true identity,” the state police said. Fingerprints confirmed his identity, they said.

Mr. Tamayo said that Mr. Lee’s companion kept telling investigators: “It can’t be him. He’s a good man.” When a Massachusetts State Police investigator showed her a wanted poster with Mr. Lee’s photos, “she broke into tears,” Mr. Tamayo said.

“She was completely shocked,” he said. “I have some sympathy for her. Her life was just turned upside down. She had no clue who he was.”

Capt. Daniel Guarente of the Quincy Police Department said that investigators managed to track down Mr. Lee after they “got some information that he was out in California, and that he had possibly been in touch with family members and, based on that information, started looking into that and located him out in California.”

Mr. Tamayo said that investigators had pored over records in the case, including previous phone calls Mr. Lee had made to his family, and narrowed the search to Diablo. Then they surveilled the home in Diablo where Mr. Lee and his companion were living, and followed their vehicle. When he was arrested, Mr. Lee was not carrying any identification and claimed his name was Randy Lee, Mr. Tamayo said.

Mr. Lee was found guilty in 2007 of brutally raping a waitress who worked at the restaurant his family owned in Quincy, south of Boston. The state police said he was wearing a mask when he broke into her home on Feb. 2, 2005, held her down at knife point, zip-tied her to a bed and sexually assaulted her.

She was found several hours later by her boyfriend, who went to her house after he was unable to reach her on the phone, the state police said.

Investigators identified Mr. Lee as the attacker in part because his victim recognized his horrible breath, the state police said. DNA evidence also tied him to the crime, the state police said.

Mr. Lee, who was arrested and charged with rape, was released on $100,000 cash bail before his trial. Just before closing arguments, he vanished.

His lawyer at the time, Philip A. Tracy Jr., said in an interview on Wednesday that Mr. Lee had been afraid of going back to jail, where he had been beaten up.

“He was worried, scared,” Mr. Tracy said. “I never thought I’d see him or hear from him again.”

Mr. Lee’s trial continued without him, and a jury found him guilty of four counts of aggravated rape, kidnapping, indecent assault and battery and other charges. He was not sentenced on the charges, which carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.

The authorities said that Mr. Lee would now be brought back to Massachusetts for sentencing.

Investigators spent hundreds of hours searching for Mr. Lee, and his case was featured on the program “America’s Most Wanted,” the state police said. Last year, the authorities offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.

“There are violent offenders out there who believe they can commit crimes and not be held accountable for their actions,” Sean LoPiccolo, the acting commander of a U.S. Marshals Service task force that helped to capture Mr. Lee, said in a statement. The arrest, Mr. LoPiccolo said, “hopefully brings peace of mind to the victim and her family.”

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