Suspect in 1979 serial rapes case remains in Horry County jail

Jerry Lee Brooks (Source: Surfside Beach PD)
Jerry Lee Brooks (Source: Surfside Beach PD)

SURFSIDE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – The Surfside Beach Police Department has arrested an accused serial rapist, after several cases were reopened and DNA confirmed he was a suspect in what is known as the "Ski-Mask Rapist Cases."

Robert P. Fey, spokesman for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said the Sexual Assault Cold Case Unit reopened the series of cases from 1979 in December 2011.

Fey said the cold case investigators entered DNA from one of the 1979 crime scenes into the national Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). It returned a match to 62-year-old Jerry Lee Brooks.

"Once they reopened that case, he didn't know it, but his clock was ticking," commented Surfside Beach Police Chief Mike Frederick.

A Grand Jury in Mecklenburg County, NC, examined the evidence presented before them Monday after the Sexual Assault Unit located all of the victims and persons related to the 1979 cases, and handed down 13 indictments against Brooks.

The Charlotte Mecklenburg PD Violent Criminal Apprehension Team Unit began searching for Brooks, who was subsequently located in Surfside Beach and arrested Tuesday.

"[Officers] sealed up the back door, the other folks knocked on the front door, as soon as he came to the front door, identified himself by name, the guys snatched him out the front door, cuffed him up and made sure no one else was in the house, and we were out of there probably in less than five minutes," explained Frederick.

Frederick said the COSIS has only existed for a few years. He said Brooks would likely have been in that database because he served time for other crimes. A 1990 Burlington (NC) Times article shows Brooks was convicted of robbing banks in that area and in the Hartsville area. Those robberies took place between 1978 and 1985, the same general time period as the rapes. The Charlotte Observer says Brooks was released in 2005, and Frederick believes that is probably when his DNA was put in the system. However, since DNA from the rape cases was not already in the system there was no match at that time. So it took until the recent investigation for a match to be made.

"This guy has allegedly committed these crimes and has been literally getting away with it for 20 or 30 years, and you could see the realization sink in on him" Frederick said. "When we identified ourselves as the Surfside Beach Police Department he was confused, but when I introduced the guys next to me, 'These two cats are from the Violent Criminal Apprehension team from Charlotte Mecklenburg North Carolina,' his face just went white, like he knew."

Brooks is being held at Horry County's J. Reuben Long Detention Center pending extradition. Frederick said Brooks waived his right to a first appearance hearing in Horry County, so he expects Brooks to be transferred to Charlotte-Mecklenberg police custody in about a week.

Brooks has been charged in three of the 1979 cases, with the appropriate charges that would have been relevant during that time, Fey said.

Brooks is charged with three counts of rape, two counts of crime against nature, burglary, two counts of breaking and entering, robbery with a dangerous weapon, two counts of attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon and two counts of kidnapping.

Copyright 2012 WMBF News. All rights reserved.