MIAMI — The serial rape suspect accused of terrorizing two South Florida neighborhoods with attacks on victims ranging from elderly women to an 11-year-old girl was back in custody Tuesday, a week since his brazen jail escape, after a tipster recognized his face and called police.

Detectives found Reynaldo E. Rapalo, his mustache shaved, about 10 p.m. Monday outside a video store in southwest Miami wearing a fuzzy pink sweater layered under a black sweater, said Amos Rojas Jr., Florida Department of Law Enforcement special agent in charge. Officers chased him down on foot.

Rapalo, 34, broke out of jail Dec. 20 by rappelling down the building on bed sheets. He was awaiting a February trial on felony counts of sexual battery and other charges that could have sent him to prison for life. He is accused of sexually assaulting seven women and girls.

Rapalo was being held for questioning and was expected to appear in court Tuesday, police said. Recapturing the suspect was satisfying to authorities.

“He is a very dangerous individual and we are very glad to have him back in custody,” Miami-Dade Police Director Robert Parker said.

“The first time he was crying, very remorseful. Now he’s cocky and smiling. But guess what, we got him,” said Miami Police Chief John Timoney, who had joined the search on his bicycle.

Rapalo, a Honduran native who had been living in Miami on an expired visa, is accused of terrorizing the city’s Little Havana and the nearby Shenandoah neighborhood in 2002 and 2003, including raping three young girls in the span of four weeks. One girl was attacked when she opened the door to a stranger’s knock, another was raped when the same man broke into her home, and a third girl was attacked after school when a man rushed her from behind.

The so-called Shenandoah rapist set the communities on edge: Parents walked their children home from school, sketches of the suspect were plastered across town, and a beauty salon owner kept her business door locked even during the day.

Miami police also stopped more than 120 men, most of them Hispanic, and asked them to volunteer DNA samples, a tactic that was denounced by civil rights activists. The DNA samples did not lead to his capture.

Rapalo was arrested September 2004 when officers noticed him driving suspiciously.

He and another inmate escaped from a Miami jail last week by climbing through a vent in the ceiling of a cell and onto a sixth-floor roof, police said. The vent was supposed to be locked, but it had been pried open, and bars blocking it were cut.

The other inmate, also a sexual assault suspect, broke his legs when he jumped and was captured outside the jail.

Police have said the sawlike tools used in the escape may have been smuggled in, and Rapalo apparently plotted the breakout for months.

Officers scoured neighborhoods, airports, train stations and ports for Rapalo, and guards were assigned to victims who still live in the area. Rapalo did not leave Miami-Dade County, and may have had accomplices who helped him elude police, Rojas said.

“We think someone gave him some clothes and he’s been communicating with some people,” Parker said. “We took some things off of him — he still had the blade that he used to escape.”

He told officers that “he was a homeless guy from Nicaragua, that he was worried about immigration,” Detective Alcides Velez said. “He was trying to mislead us in that direction.”

After his escape, the director of the Miami-Dade Corrections Department ordered that all vents at the jail be welded shut and that lighting be improved.

Two corrections officers were placed on paid administrative leave. They were not accused of being involved in the escape, and they have not been disciplined.

The tipster who ultimately led authorities to Rapalo will get the $36,000 award offered for information leading to his arrest, police said.

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