The Sun Star

Puffy-faced rapist pleads guility

The Strongsville suspect linked by police departments and other agencies to smash-and-grab incidents and sexual attacks in several southwestern suburbs pleaded guilty to several of the charges rather than face a trial.

Joshua Harayda, 23, in the Cuyahoga County jail since July, will be sentenced on March 19.

Harayda pleaded guilty to several counts of breaking and entering, vandalism and thefts. He admitted to one count each of aggravated robbery, rape and felonious assault, all while having a firearm. He also pleaded guilty to attempted aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, kidnapping, aggravated burglary, attempted kidnapping and felonious assaults.

He originally faced more than 55 charges by six police departments. Harayda was connected with a string of business break-ins during a three-month period beginning in April 2001 in Berea, Middleburg Heights, Parma, Parma Heights, North Royalton and Strongsville.

Police also targeted him as the puffy-faced assailant in attacks in Parma, Parma Heights, Strongsville and North Royalton that began in October 2000.

The investigations included assistance from the FBI Behavioral Science Bureau and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Geographic Profiling Unit, which targeted where the prime suspect lived within a ½-mile of Harayda’s residence.

“We had about every aspect of law enforcement involved in this. It was a great joint effort among the various police departments and other agencies,” said North Royalton Detective Jay Drake, currently assigned to the U.S. Customs Office of Investigations in Cleveland. “He’s looking at 20-30 years. We will ask for the maximum allowed by law. He is a danger and a menace to society.”

Harayda was under surveillance for nine days when he was arrested July 3 in Strongsville for driving with a suspended license in connection with the smash-and-grab crimes in which the front windows of the stores were broken and money, including several cash registers, were stolen.

Authorities found a cash register from a Berea business that had been broken into that day in the trunk of his car. He became a suspect in the knife and gun point attacks after police searching his home found items belonging to a Parma woman robbed outside her apartment in January 2001.

He was identified as the prime subject in the smash-and-grab break-ins after photos on store security videotapes were shown on local television and in newspapers.

Authorities obtained a court order requiring Harayda to submit to a blood sample to compare with drops found at another Berea break-in. Strongsville police had earlier obtained DNA evidence in a rape at the Colony Motel on Pearl Road.

The investigation included Parma Detective Mike Klein obtaining a cell phone search warrant since police found a cell phone that Harayda had belonging to the Pleasant Lake Apartments victim in that city. The search warrant helped authorities with the location of cell towers used in calls that Harayda made, according to sources.

Police departments revisited crime scenes and re-interviewed victims, witnesses and informants to help connect the cases and find the suspect, said Drake.

The Canadian unit used the information, including the suspect’s “hunting” area, comments he made during the attacks as well as his direction of travel afterward, with various formulas and plugged them into a computerized software. That’s when the unit identified an area that was within the ½-mile of Harayda’s residence.

Gary Levine, Harayda’s attorney, explained the reason for his client’s retracting his original not-guilty plea. “He admitted his culpability and is taking responsibility,” Levine said.

Some of the victims are expected to address Harayda at his 10:30 a.m. March 19 sentencing before Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Ann T. Mannen.

A North Royalton victim was returning home to her Sunrise Cove condominium in February 2001 when Harayda, who followed her into the complex, grabbed and held her at knife point, saying he would “slice” her throat. The 34-year-old woman told police she tried talking with him during the incident. He reportedly loosened his grip when seeing someone peer from a window and told her to just give him her purse. That’s when she broke free and ran into her home where she tried to control the bleeding from cuts suffered during the confrontation.

Strongsville incidents occurred that same weekend when he confronted a clerk at the Plaza Motel in Strongsville and a woman leaving her car at Chestnut Lakes Apartments on Whitney Road. During those incidents, he ran away without receiving money or hurting the victims.


The Sun Star, Cleveland, Ohio.

March 7th, 2002