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Westlake predator arrested after 2-yr search

February 3, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
A suspected sexual predator is off the streets after a two-year search.A Hollywood man was arrested Friday, accused of molesting at least four girls in the Westlake area, starting in 2008.

Los Angeles police say 41-year-old Daniel Merino was booked on suspicion of kidnapping for sexual assault, and is being held on $4 million bail.

Merino was dubbed the "spiky hair suspect." Police had been looking for him for almost two years.

He is accused of approaching at least four girls who were 9 or 10 years old. Investigators say the suspect started a conversation with each girl as she walked alone. He then tried to sexually assault her.

Investigators say the most recent attack came Nov. 4 at 7:20 a.m. He is accused of approaching a girl as she walked to school near Beverly Boulevard and Commonweath Avenue. The suspect then lured the girl into an apartment building on Commonwealth Avenue, taking her to the roof where he tried to sexually assault her.

He was caught on tape by surveillance cameras after he got locked into the building. The video shows him walking with the victim and later running alone on Commonwealth Avenue.

Images circulated by police also show him getting out of a blue or black late 1990s model four-door Mazda Millenia with an opening roof.

Detectives finally got a break using a high-tech license plate scanner. They arrested Merino when he got into a car believed to be his and drove it into a parking garage.

It's unclear if a $50,000 reward sponsored by City Councilman Ed Reyes helped lead to his arrest. If convicted, Merino could face 25 years to life in prison.

AP contributed to this report.