Center City rape suspect who was arrested in South Jersey has lengthy criminal history

The suspect has been identified by police as 49-year-old Willie L Harris.

Friday, July 8, 2022
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Center City Rape Suspect Caught: The Washington Township Police Department is crediting social media and an alert nurse for helping them locate the 49-year-old man.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A Center City Philadelphia rape suspect who was arrested in South Jersey Thursday night has a lengthy criminal history dating back to 1992.

The Washington Township Police Department in Gloucester County is crediting social media and an alert nurse for helping them locate the suspect, identified as 49-year-old Willie Harris.

"We posted the social media post around 9 p.m., and he was in custody by 11 p.m.," Washington Township Police Chief Patrick Gurcsik said.

According to the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, Harris was found guilty of trespassing and disorderly conduct back in 1992 in New Jersey. Since then, he's been found guilty of more than 20 other charges including criminal trespass, burglary, robbery and theft.

He was most recently found guilty of theft in 2020 in New Jersey. In Philadelphia, Harris pleaded guilty to burglary in 2015. He also pleaded guilty to criminal mischief and criminal trespass in 2001.

Harris is accused of raping a woman inside a law office building on Tuesday on the 200 block of North 13th Street.

Willie L Harris

Police say a 22-year-old woman was raped while her coworker was out at lunch. They were the only two working in the office at the time.

Philadelphia police released surveillance video of Harris.

The video reportedly showed the suspect casually walking in and out of the office building before the attack. Once inside the building, police said the suspect went to the 8th floor and entered the unlocked law firm.

The man indicated he was looking for someone, but the victim said she didn't know the name, according to Capt. James Kearney of the Special Victims Unit. The man then demanded the victim sit in a chair.

Harris then allegedly began to rummage through the office, and the victim offered to give the man her Airpods and earrings in the hopes he would go away.

He then became angry, and beat and choked the victim when she tried to scream for help, police said.

Kearney said the suspect then raped the victim.

Pictured: The suspect wanted for a sex assault in an office building on the 200 block of S. 13th Street in Center City.

The attack was interrupted when the co-worker arrived back in the office. The suspect then fled.

Late Thursday afternoon, the Washington Township Police Department received information that Harris was seen on Egg Harbor Road near the Xpress Mart.

Detectives went over to that location and retrieved surveillance video of Harris standing at the bus stop.

Police then posted a 'be on the lookout' post on social media with Harris' picture around 9 p.m.

It was shared thousands of times.

Within an hour, a nurse from Jefferson Washington Township Hospital contacted police. The nurse believed the suspect was in the hospital and had just been discharged.

Officers found him on a bench outside and took him into custody.

"An alert nurse over here at the hospital saw (the social media post) on her shift and notified hospital security and the police department immediately and we were there within a minute or two and picked him up and put him into custody without incident," Chief Gurcsik said.

After the arrest, police updated the social media post saying, " Thank you to our alert community of followers for seeing and sharing this social media post."

They added a photo of Harris with the words "in custody."

Harris is being detained in South Jersey until he's extradited back to Philadelphia.

Police said Harris' address was unknown but noted that he had ties to Philadelphia and parts of South Jersey, including Camden and Woodbury.