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Originally published Monday, March 5, 2012 at 7:34 PM

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Rapist arrested in attack on 6 women in U District house

A convicted rapist broke into the home of eight UW women Monday. He bound the hands of six of them before Seattle police, responding to a 911 call placed by one of the residents, arrived and arrested the man.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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A man released from prison in January after serving a 10-year sentence for first-degree rape was arrested early Monday, suspected of breaking into a University District house, threatening six young women with a knife and binding their hands.

The women, ages 19 to 21, are all University of Washington students. One of their roommates hid in her bedroom on the house's main floor and called 911, summoning police who arrested the man before any of the women were injured, according to police and one of the women who lives in the rental house.

"We got there before anything could happen, but it's certainly very, very scary," Seattle police spokesman Mark Jamieson said.

Robert Douglas Hitt, 34, a Level 2 sex offender who is under lifelong supervision by the state Department of Corrections (DOC), was booked into the King County Jail just after 10:30 a.m. Monday on investigation of robbery, burglary, kidnapping and unlawful imprisonment and for violating conditions of his release on his prior rape conviction. He is to make his first court appearance Tuesday.

At the house, in the 5000 block of 20th Avenue Northeast, a main-floor window was smashed and covered with garbage bags. It is believed Hitt entered the house after breaking that window, said Austen Beard, one of the women who lives there.

Beard, a 19-year-old sophomore, was awakened around 3:30 a.m. Monday, when the man burst into her second-floor bedroom, and Beard, figuring he was a friend of her roommates, yelled at him to get out. He did, and she locked her door, then heard him yell, "Get everyone in the house! I'm going to kill everyone!"

Moments later, one of her roommates knocked on her door and asked Beard to open it. She did and saw the man holding a knife to the roommate's throat, she said.

He rounded up six of the eight young women who live in the house, forcing them into an upstairs bedroom and ordering them to lie facedown in a row. He bound the wrists of the first three girls with electrical tape, but ran out, Beard said.

He then grabbed a table lamp and yanked out the cord, causing sparks to fly, in an apparent attempt to use the cord to tie up the remaining girls, Beard said.

In the dark, Beard — whose hands hadn't yet been tied — grabbed the serrated kitchen knife the man had left within reach and hid it under her body. As he searched for more tape, Beard was able to pass the knife to the last woman in the line.

"He was very amateur. He was messed up," Beard said of the suspect, who she thinks may have been under the influence of drugs.

The woman who had hidden in her room opened the front door for Seattle police officers and directed them up the stairs, Beard said. The officers quickly got Hitt into handcuffs. It was unclear where the eighth roommate was.

According to police, one woman called 911 but was heard by the suspect, who brought her into the room with the other girls.

Beard said two of the six girls in the room had attempted to call 911 but their calls didn't go through before they were caught by the suspect. Their roommate, who hid in her room on the main floor, was able to summon help, she said.

Beard acknowledged there was "a moment" when she and her roommates worried they were about to be sexually assaulted but declined to discuss what happened in detail. "It didn't come to that at all," she said.

"Every single girl that was involved, I'm so proud of," Beard said, explaining that everyone kept their cool and worked together to get the knife away from the suspect. One of the women was even able to wriggle out of the electrical tape while the others were cut free by officers, she said.

"There will be some trauma for the next week, and people don't want to sleep in their own beds," Beard said. "But there's eight of us — we'll get through it."

According to court records, Hitt was charged with first-degree rape in October 2001 and pleaded guilty in May 2002.

He completed a sex-offender treatment program and was released from prison Jan. 10 after the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board found he was at low risk to reoffend, according to Chad Lewis, a spokesman for the state DOC. The board could have extended his prison sentence in two-year increments, up to a maximum of life, court records show.

Hitt began community supervision upon his release from prison and had been compliant, completing another sex-offender treatment program last Thursday, Lewis said.

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or sgreen@seattletimes.com

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