Man held in 7 Fresno assaults

A man suspected of sexually assaulting seven women in central Fresno is in custody, Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer announced Wednesday.

Carlos Smith, 29, of Madera was taken into custody Tuesday following an investigation by the department's undercover and patrol officers that began in early February, Dyer said.

All of the victims were abducted along Belmont Avenue between Broadway and Fresno Street. While some of the women may have been involved in prostitution, others were not, Dyer said; in one case, a victim was walking to the store when she was forced into a car.

The first assault was reported to police on Feb. 10, when a woman was abducted at Belmont and Broadway and assaulted. She was able to escape and contacted police.

Other attacks were reported on March 3, near Belmont and Fresno, and on March 6 and March 13, both near Belmont and Broadway.

Police put undercover detectives from several units on the investigation, and got a break Saturday when patrol officers encountered a man who matched the description of the assailant, Dyer said.

Smith's arrest followed his identification by several victims from a lineup. He is charged with multiple felonies, including rape, false imprisonment and assault with a deadly weapon.

Several more victims came forward Wednesday, and police are also checking whether a similar assault in July 2007 was committed by Smith, Dyer said. Other police agencies have also been contacted, but so far none has linked Smith to assaults in those jurisdictions, he added.

There is a chance that more victims may come forward, Dyer said, so officers are withholding some details for now. Anyone with information is asked to contact detective Neal Cooney at (559) 621-2479.