Few victims are more vulnerable than Eva: homeless, confined to a wheelchair, missing a hip, the 56-year-old often sleeps on the sidewalks or vacant lots in an industrial area of Hollywood that attracts hundreds of homeless people.
On January 17, that vulnerability led to sexual assault.
She says she was awakened early that morning from her sidewalk slumber by a man who punched her in the face before sexually violating her. She fell asleep and he returned later to rape her again, according to police reports.
In a recent interview, it was clear she still bore the emotional and physical scars of the attack.
"Look at all these scars and this scar. He banged me in the head," she said in an alley that, at times, also serves as her home.
Hollywood police were alerted soon after the rapes that morning and Eva was taken to a sexual assault treatment center, where DNA was collected.
But she did not know her attacker’s name and the next day misidentified another homeless man as the culprit.
Frustrated by what she claims was police indifference — but what police say was her inability to stay sober long enough to assist – she did not give a formal statement.
Then, 19 days later and a quarter-mile from the first rape scene, another homeless woman sleeping on the back porch of a vacant home reported she, too, was awakened by a man who punched and then raped her.
On February 18, the second victim, 47, picked her attacker’s photo out of a line-up and Hollywood police had a name for their suspect: Adrian Junior Nelson, a 27-year-old homeless man with a history of mental illness and felony convictions, including for aggravated assault.
Hollywood police produced flyers asking officers to locate Nelson for questioning, but for the next three and a half months they say he was nowhere to be found.
In interviews with NBC 6 Investigators, several homeless people say Nelson continued to prowl the alleys and streets around the scene of the rapes during this time – even trying to attack another sleeping woman, who said in an interview Nelson was chased off by other homeless men who came to her rescue. Two homeless men confirmed they were among those who came to the woman’s assistance after Nelson accosted her.
"He laid down next to her and he covered her mouth," one of the men said in an interview. "She screamed out. Someone was trying to hurt her. So I ran over, me and … her boyfriend, and we tried to chase him off."
During subsequent weeks, Hollywood police did not formally alert the homeless to a rapist in their midst.
Nor did it seek the public’s help in locating Nelson through its Twitter feed, Facebook page or via press release. It did use one or more of those methods during this time to seek help identifying armed robbery suspects, missing/endangered adults and a lost dog found in the city.
Hollywood police say they conducted a thorough investigation. "We take every rape allegation very seriously and investigate them fully, regardless of the victim’s socio-economic status," it said in a statement to NBC 6 Investigators.
On April 11 – almost two months after the second rape victim picked Nelson out of a photo line-up - the Broward sheriff’s crime lab confirmed Nelson’s DNA to sperm from the first rape.
The department said it did not alert the public of danger because it did not consider Nelson a confirmed serial rape suspect, citing Eva’s misidentification of one man as the suspect in January, and her inconsistencies and credibility issues. But it did continue asking patrol officers to locate Nelson.
Even as police say they never spotted Nelson, evidence grew suggesting they had a serial rapist in their city.
On May 5, DNA from the second rape was identified as Nelson’s – confirming the second victim’s identification on Nelson from the photo line-up months earlier.
On May 13, Eva, the first victim, picked Nelson out of a photo line-up.
Yet, police say, they did not have enough evidence to charge Nelson on their own.
Instead, on May 17, they asked the Broward County state attorney’s office to consider filing charges against Nelson for both rapes.
Prosecutors began reviewing the cases, but were concerned Eva’s misidentification of the one man in the first rape would make it difficult to prosecute Nelson, who might argue the sex was consensual, according to an office memorandum. Still, the office said, it continued to review both cases over the next three weeks.
Then, on June 8, Nelson allegedly struck again.
It was around 1 a.m. when, police allege, he awakened a woman sleeping on the ground.
"And he goes, 'Shut up, shut up or I’ll kill ya,'" the victim told NBC 6 Investigators. "Well, I shut up."
Still, she said, he struck her with a piece of cinderblock in the head and raped her so brutally her genitals were damaged.
This time, though, the victim had no trouble identifying her attacker.
That’s because the victim – again – was Eva.
"Do you know how humiliating it is to walk into a rape unit and they go, 'Eva!' -- first name – 'Eva, you’re back? What happened?' I go, 'He did it again.' They go, 'Come on, come on.'" Eva recounted in an interview.
"They called me by my first name, you know. That was humiliating, man."
Within about 12 hours after the third rape, Nelson was located by Hollywood detectives less than a mile away, with his bicycle outside a Dania Beach convenience store, and arrested.
Prosecutors, then, had no qualms charging Nelson with sexual battery stemming from all three rapes.
He has pleaded not guilty and is being held without bond; his public defender did not return a call seeking comment.