Local 1980s serial rapist arrested in Texas

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — A self-described serial rapist who set off a citywide manhunt in the mid-1980s and eventually served nearly two decades in prison was arrested recently in Texas for peeping through a 23-year-old woman’s window.

     Mark J. Semkiw, 47, was charged Sept. 24 with disorderly conduct, a $500 misdemeanor, and subsequently charged with failure to register as a sex offender when Galveston authorities discovered he had not notified them properly of an address change.

     Semkiw, a Fordson High School graduate, was being held on $500,000 bond in connection with not reporting the address change, a felony carrying a maximum 10-year prison sentence.

     But Semkiw’s most recent brush with law enforcement is only the latest in a history of criminal behavior that has extended throughout his adult life. In 1981 Semkiw, then 20, received his first criminal conviction when he was arrested for burglarizing a Dearborn house.

     A few years later he was cited for disorderly conduct and sentenced to probation. Semkiw upped the criminal ante in 1986 when he committed his first of several rapes and robberies.

     According to a police profile, Semkiw’s modus operandi was to identify single white women living alone and force his way into their houses at night. He would rape them, rob them and then flee.

     The attacks were carefully plotted. Police said Semkiw would often unscrew motion sensor lights at a victim’s house days prior to the attack and carried a “rape kit” of gloves and a mask. They also said he seemed to relish the press attention his crimes garnered, often checking local papers for police reports on his exploits.

     Semkiw later told police how his criminal activities began with a penchant for burglaries, but escalated to a taste for rape when he began seeing naked or scantily dressed women through the windows of houses he was casing.

     Through several interviews with police, Semkiw maintained his motive was not sexual conquest, rather it was physical domination over his victims. The assertion seemed to bear out in three attempted rapes he abandoned when the women either fought back or seemed indifferent.

     One incident Semkiw described in detail took place on Jonathon Street south of Michigan Avenue near the Fordson Hotel. Wearing pantyhose to cover his face, Semkiw crashed through a window “just like John Wayne,” he said.

     The woman inside seemed unsurprised and asked him if he wanted to snort a line of cocaine. The admitted substance abuser declined, telling police he was concerned about what might be laced in the drugs, and told the woman to take off her clothes because he was going to rape her.

     She responded by asking if her boyfriend had sent him, and it became clear to Semkiw that the woman thought a sexual fantasy was being fulfilled. Semkiw said this took all the power and control away from him and he left without raping her.

     “You ask anyone who is convicted of rape and they will tell you, it’s not about the sexual act. It’s about being able to have the power and control over the women or the situation,” Semkiw said to police.

     Semkiw eventually was arrested in 1987 in connection with one rape and served seven years in prison before he was paroled in 1994. He moved to a house on Payne near Paul after being released, but shortly thereafter was caught by police peeping in a woman’s window in the same neighborhood. Semkiw was sentenced to another seven years in prison.

     Upon his release in 2001, Semkiw was rearrested immediately due to the emergence of new DNA-matching technology that tied him to several unsolved 1980s rapes. As part of a plea deal, Semkiw admitted to the rapes and served another five years in prison.

     During his admission to Dearborn police at the time, Semkiw described himself as “unstoppable” and said he relied on his imposing physical stature to coerce women into sexual acts.

     “I was able to get what I wanted from women just by verbally threatening them and from the way I would look at them,” Semkiw said. “I used to have 18-inch arms; I was diabolical in getting what I wanted.

     “When a woman says ‘no,’ she doesn’t mean it. She just doesn’t want to come off looking like a tramp.”