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"East Coast rapist" gets life sentences for Halloween attack

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The man police dubbed "the East Coast rapist" for a string of attacks on women was sentenced on Friday to three life sentences plus 80 years for a 2009 Halloween assault on trick-or-treating Virginia teenagers.

Aaron Thomas, 41, of New Haven, Connecticut, was sentenced by Judge Mary Grace O'Brien in Prince William County Circuit Court in Virginia. He will not be eligible for parole, said prosecutor Amy Ashworth.

"Life is life," Ashworth said.

Thomas, the son of a District of Columbia police officer, pleaded guilty to two counts of rape and three counts of abduction last November in connection with the 2009 Halloween attack in a Virginia suburb of Washington. The crime was the last in a series that police linked to the man they dubbed the "East Coast rapist."

Armed with a handgun, Thomas abducted three teenage girls who were returning home from Halloween trick-or-treating and raped two of them.

The third used her cellphone to send text messages and call for help. Thomas fled when police approached.

Police have said DNA links him to attacks on at least 17 women in Maryland, Virginia, Rhode Island and Connecticut since 1997.

In addition to Friday's sentencing, Thomas is scheduled to be sentenced on March 15 in Virginia's Loudoun County, also in the Washington area, for the 2001 rape and abduction of a 41-year-old woman. In November, he pleaded guilty to the charges in that case.

Thomas was arrested in March 2011 after police took a sample of his DNA from a discarded cigarette butt.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Dan Grebler)

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