Daniel Meridy

Daniel Meridy

For more than a decade, he raped strangers in New Orleans and Kansas City at gun or knifepoint, authorities believe.

Yet while DNA technology has given law enforcement a potent tool to find suspects in so-called “stranger rapes,” Daniel Meridy had never been convicted of a crime.

Now Meridy, a 34-year-old Irish Channel resident, faces life imprisonment after his arrest Monday in connection with four rapes in New Orleans over the past few years. Investigators also suspect, based on DNA evidence, that he was responsible for sexually assaulting three strangers in Kansas City, Missouri, more than a decade ago.

Magistrate Judge Harry Cantrell set Meridy’s total bail at $1.6 million after hearing the allegations on Tuesday.

The Kansas City attacks came first, police said in warrants. Investigators suspect Meridy is responsible for three sexual assaults in 2004 and 2005.

Although stranger rapes capture the public's imagination and arouse fear, only about three in 10 rapes are committed by someone who is not known to the victim, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, a group that advocates against sexual violence.

The victims in the Missouri assaults gave similar descriptions of their attackers, but the crimes went unsolved, New Orleans police said. Authorities there did not immediately comment.

Police allege that more than a decade after that spate of attacks, Meridy continued his crimes in New Orleans. DNA evidence has linked him to four rapes since 2015, they said:

• A June 7, 2015, rape in the 1800 block of Bayou Road, in Treme. Police said a woman agreed to have sex in exchange for money with a man who picked her up at Esplanade and North Claiborne avenues. But after they went to an abandoned apartment complex on Bayou Road, he pulled out a gun and forced her to give the money back. Then he raped her.

• A May 26, 2016, rape in the 600 block of South Genois Street, in Mid-City. A woman told police that after she got off a bus near Tulane Avenue, a man with a handgun forced her into an alley and raped her.

• A Sept. 21, 2016, rape at Washington Avenue and Clara Street, in Central City. Police said an unknown man offered the victim money for sex, which she refused. Then he pulled out a gun and forced her to have sex next to an abandoned building, the woman said.

• An Oct. 13, 2018, rape in the 2400 block of South Johnson Street, in Central City. Meridy is accused of placing a knife to a woman's throat after spotting her on a Central City street and promising to give her a ride. She said he raped her in an alley next to an abandoned house.

The victims in the New Orleans attacks also gave similar descriptions of the perpetrator, police said. All of them underwent sexual assault examinations for DNA and other evidence at a hospital.

New Orleans police said that using DNA, they had connected the first three assaults in New Orleans to a single, unknown attacker by September.

As the investigation continued, NOPD detective Kevin Richardson identified Meridy as a suspect, warrants said. Police did not immediately explain how they zeroed in on him, however.

Officers swabbed Meridy's cheek for a DNA sample on Thursday. Confirmation of a DNA "match" in all four attacks came back from the State Police Crime Lab on Monday, police said. Meridy turned himself in at NOPD headquarters and was arrested the same day.

He wore an orange jail uniform in Orleans Parish Magistrate Court on Tuesday for his first appearance on four counts of first-degree rape and four counts of aggravated kidnapping.

Meridy didn’t speak, but before Magistrate Court Judge Harry Cantrell set bail he heard from a public defender who pointed out that Meridy had turned himself into police.

Attorney Meghan Garvey said that Meridy supports five children who live with him on his pay of $9.50 an hour.

"Mr. Meridy is not going to be able to make this bond, as few people would be able to do," she said. "He did turn himself in and is clearly not a flight risk."

But Assistant District Attorney Michael Henn said other jurisdictions are investigating Meridy in "similar stranger cases that involve allegations of use of weapons."

Cantrell set his next court hearing for Jan. 8.


Follow Matt Sledge on Twitter, @mgsledge.