‘Serial rapist’ charged in 2008 assault of 2 Norfolk teens; DNA linked to other rapes, police say


I was just thinking. If the government passed a law requiring gun purchasers to provide DNA, maybe more rap cases would be solved. And maybe this would cut down on crazy people from being allowed to buy guns. I mean, this sounds like a great plan of action to me. -Queenie

Cold case cracked after suspect lied on form to buy gun, police say.

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Norfolk police arrested a man accused of sexually assaulting two teenagers in 2008. Investigators believe he is a “serial rapist,” according to Norfolk police.

William Lionelle Phelps IV is facing 10 charges connected to a sexual assault that happened on Jan. 9, 2008. He was arraigned on the following charges on Friday, Oct. 14:

  • Rape
  • Aggravated sexual battery (2 counts)
  • Aggravated abduction (2 counts)
  • Forced sodomy (3 counts)
  • Wear a mask to commit a crime
  • Use of a firearm

Phelps, 33, is accused of using a gun to force a 15-year-old girl and a 16-year-old girl behind a shed in the 2900 block of Verdun Avenue, where he allegedly sexually assaulted them. He was 18 years old at the time.

Phelps is being held without bail. On a bail determination checklist, investigators wrote that he is “suspected to be a serial offender.” Norfolk police issued a press release that said forensic evidence revealed he was also allegedly involved in two other rapes in Norfolk and another in Chesapeake.

The investigation into those additional cases has been turned over to the commonwealth’s attorney, Norfolk police said.

Police linked Phelps to the 2008 Verdun Avenue sexual assault through DNA that was collected in May of 2022 after he allegedly lied on a form while trying to buy a gun in Virginia Beach. He’s charged in Virginia Beach with false statement on criminal history consent, which is a felony, and attempted gun possession by a person involuntarily committed (misdemeanor). He’s due in court on those charges on Dec. 15.

A teenager was initially charged in the Verdun Avenue sexual assault, but the case against him was dismissed after investigators determined that his DNA was not a match to the assailant who attacked the teenagers.

10 On Your Side covered this attack when it first happened in January 2008. At that time, Norfolk police said it was the second sexual assault case being investigated within one mile in less than a week. Both attacks were similar, according to police.

The first attack happened a few days prior when a 16-year-old and 18-year-old were approached by an unknown man who said he had a gun while they were walking in the 3900 block of Robin Hood Road. The man forced the two into a wooded area in the 3100 block of Glenn Avenue and sexually assaulted them before fleeing, according to 10 On Your Side’s archives.

10 On Your Side spoke with a woman named Danica Brown in 2008, who said she was friends with both of the teenagers who were attacked on Verdun Avenue.

“Them two, they don’t do nothing to nobody. I don’t know why somebody would want to do this to them,” Brown told 10 On Your Side in 2008.

10 On Your Side investigators have been digging into Phelps’ criminal history. We found that a woman took out an emergency protective order against Phelps in November 2018, after she said he smacked food out of her hand, took her phone away from her, and punched her in the face. She told police that he consistently harassed her. He was not charged in connection to that emergency protective order.

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