Valley residents who have been on edge as police struggled to solve two serial killer cases are breathing a hesitant and cautious sigh of relief.
In the past year, the Baseline Killer is suspected of killing eight people, sexually assaulting 11 women and girls and committing several robberies.
There were no breaks in the case until Wednesday, when police arrested 42-year-old Mark Goudeau in two sexual assaults thought to be tied to the Baseline Killer. But police say they’ve only connected Goudeau through evidence from two sexual assaults, committed on the same night against two sisters, one of whom was six months pregnant.
Either police will connect Goudeau to more cases, or the Baseline Killer is still a free man.
Some have their doubts.
‘‘I don’t think it’s really him. I don’t think they could have caught him that fast,’’ said 17-year-old Cassie Harley, who was waiting at a bus stop Friday near Goudeau’s home and in the neighborhood where many of the Baseline Killer’s victims were attacked. ‘‘We’re still nervous.’’
When police arrested two Mesa men in connection to another serial predator case in the Phoenix area, residents were much more at ease.
‘‘Now I don’t have to worry about getting shot,’’ said 59-year-old Phoenix resident James Baldwin the day after the arrest in that case.
In the Serial Shooter case, victims were targeted at random. Seven people were shot and killed and at least 17 people were shot and wounded.
In early August, police arrested Samuel John Dieteman, 30, and Dale Hausner, 33, in the case. The roommates are charged with murder and attempted murder in 16 shootings, two of them fatal. They have pleaded not guilty.
Phoenix resident Rosa Belt, 16, said she was always more afraid of the Baseline Killer than the Serial Shooter.
‘‘I was really scared,’’ she said. ‘‘It was happening so close to where I live.’’
But, she said she has felt safer recently, when her pregnancy began showing. Now, she’s six months’ pregnant. When she heard a woman who was six months pregnant was sexually assaulted, she said she realizes nobody is ever really safe.
When she first heard Goudeau was arrested in two of the sexual assaults, she said she felt some relief, but not completely.
‘‘I was kind of like, ‘is it him or is it someone else?’ ’’ she said. ‘‘There could still be a killer out there.’’
Goudeau was booked for investigation of aggravated assault, kidnapping, sexual abuse and sexual assault and was ordered held without bail, but has yet to be formally charged. His lawyer, Corwin Townsend, said he would plead not guilty.
His wife, Wendy Carr, insists Goudeau is innocent.
‘‘This is a huge miscarriage of justice. And they have an innocent man in prison,’’ Carr said. ‘‘This is all a mistake.’’
Just blocks from the central Phoenix home Goudeau and Carr shared, Debbie Toopkema was washing her car alone at a carwash Friday. The spot is where the Baseline Killer’s last victim, 37-year-old Carmen Miranda, was attacked. Her body was later found nearby in her car.
‘‘I didn’t know a lady was killed here,’’ said Toopkema, 47, who added that she did know about the Baseline Killer. ‘‘The only reason I’m here by myself is because it’s daylight. I never go out alone at night. There’s still a lot of crazy people. You can’t turn your back.’’
She said when she saw a picture of Goudeau, she had mixed feelings whether it matched a sketch of the Baseline Killer.
‘‘It could be him, and it could not be him. A lot of people look like that,’’ she said.
Fernando Macias, manager of the Hi-Tech Car Wash, said Goudeau was a regular at the carwash.
Macias said he first met Goudeau when he was trying to move a heavy planter, and Goudeau offered to help.
‘‘He’s so nice. I think I’m a nice guy, but he’s nicer,’’ Macias said.
When he saw Goudeau had been arrested, he said his stomach just dropped.
‘‘I felt sick. I was in shock,’’ he said.
Macias said he strongly doubts that Goudeau will turn out to be the man responsible for all the killings and sexual assaults.
Sixteen-year-old Anna Jose, who was walking down a nearby street said she feels better because of Goudeau’s arrest. ‘‘The streets are at least a little bit more safer,’’ she said.