After escaping an attempted abduction Saturday, a Houston woman made a chilling — and prescient — observation about the kidnapper on the loose.
"If it happened to me, it can happen to other people," Luz Baena, 55, told KTRK.
And the very next day, it happened again: The same man tried to kidnap two more women in the Houston area on Sunday, bringing his victim count over the weekend to four, authorities said.
Now local law enforcement have announced the arrest of a suspect in the case. Howard Dixon, 22, is accused of trying to kidnap Baena and three others, and of sexually assaulting the last two victims.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Star-Telegram
“We believed he was going to take it further and further,” Harris County Lt. Jeff Stauber said Wednesday at a press conference announcing the arrest. “We very possibly could have had a homicide. That was the progression of his aggression.”
Dixon, arrested Tuesday in Montgomery County, faces charges of sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, attempted kidnapping and aggravated kidnapping, according to the Harris County and Montgomery County sheriff’s offices.
The kidnapping attempts began Saturday at 10:30 a.m., when Dixon tried to abduct a woman in north Houston, authorities said. But the victim was lucky: There was a yard crew working nearby, and they were able to rescue the victim before Dixon could drive off with her, authorities said.
About 10 minutes later and just down the street, Dixon struck again, Stauber said. This time the victim was Baena, who was riding her bicycle.
"He threw the bicycle," Baena told KPRC. "I said, 'What do you want? You can have the bicycle,' and he said, 'No, I want you.'"
Dixon dragged the victim into his car and struck her in the face, leaving her with a black eye, authorities said.
“This young lady was a fighter,” Stauber said. “She decided she wasn’t going to be a victim this day and she actually jumped out of the vehicle.”
Dixon's later victims weren’t as lucky, authorities said, adding that the suspect became more aggressive as the crimes went on.
The next day, at 2:50 p.m., Dixon went up to a woman at a Montgomery County apartment complex and coerced her into getting in his Toyota, authorities said.
“He would offer people rides,” Montgomery County Detective Michael Lee said at the news conference. “People’s trust in the good intentions they might have perceived at the time is ultimately what led to their victimization.”
Once she was in the car, he forced the woman to perform a sex act on him, authorities said. Within five minutes, that third victim managed to escape from Dixon, authorities said.
In the same area, Dixon located his fourth victim, according to authorities. The man strangled her and sexually assaulted her in several ways before she got away. The woman then reported the incident to police.
About 80 law enforcement officers — including both sheriff’s offices, Houston police, Texas rangers and the FBI — convened Tuesday morning to track down the suspect in Montgomery County, just north of Houston, authorities said. He was arrested later that day.
Dixon was driving a distinctive Toyota with tinted windows and a damaged right side during the attacks, authorities said. Video footage of the vehicle, which watchful neighbors handed over to police, helped apprehend the suspect, the sheriffs' offices said.
Dixon is being held at a Montgomery County jail on $300,000 bond, authorities said at the news conference.
The aggravated kidnapping charge Dixon faces in Harris County is a first-degree felony carrying 5 years to life in prison, according to the county's district attorney's office. The attempted aggravated kidnapping charge is a second-degree felony carrying 2 to 20 years in prison.
Authorities encouraged anyone else who may have been victimized by the suspect to come forward.
“We don’t really know that this weekend was his first attempt to do this kind of activity,” Stauber said.