Predator of elderly women now in jail, police say

He preyed on the vulnerable, stalking women in their 80s, often while they were shopping at supermarkets, state and city police allege.

In one case, Reuben McDowell followed an 85-year-old woman from her car in the Giant parking lot on East Third Street to her Loyalsock Township home, then forced his way into the house, threw the elderly woman to the ground and stole $400 from her, police alleged in court papers.

The attack, which occurred about 1 p.m. Dec. 12, was just one of about a half a dozen such incidents in the area between Dec. 9 and Dec. 16 in which a thief took a woman’s purse from her car or outright confronted a victim, police said.

In addition to allegedly robbing the Loyalsock Township woman, the 55-year-old McDowell, an admitted drug addict, has been accused of attacking an 82-year-old woman as she was getting in her car at the Digiplex Cinema Center, 300 W. Fourth St., about 8:20 p.m. Dec. 7, according to city police Agent Raymond O. Kontz III.

The elderly woman had stopped at the theater to check out movie times, Kontz said.

“As she was getting in her car, she was grabbed from behind by a man who tried to cover her mouth with his hand,” Kontz said in an affidavit.

“The victim struggled with the attacker, grabbing at his face and clothing as she turned to sit down in the driver’s seat of her vehicle,” Kontz said.

Seeing the woman’s purse on her front seat, the assailant grabbed it and fled, Kontz said.

Both robbery victims identified their attacker as McDowell after being shown a photo array of possible suspects, police said.

State police also have charged McDowell with allegedly stealing a third elderly woman’s purse from her car while it was parked at ALDI’s in Loyalsock Township on Dec. 13. However, unlike the two other cases, the victim in this incident did not see the thief, police said.

McDowell allegedly used one victim’s bank credit card to make purchases.

He was captured on Dec. 20 as investigators suspect he was targeting yet another victim outside the Giant supermarket in the Loyal Plaza.

On that afternoon, a state police surveillance team at the plaza spotted a man who matched the description of the robber provided by the two earlier victims.

“He was watching an elderly woman as she was loading groceries into her vehicle. When she drove out of the lot, the suspect followed her to her residence on Hidden Valley Drive” in Loyalsock Township, Trooper Matthew Sweet said in an affidavit.

The man left, but he soon returned and was taken into custody. Later that day, the victims who were robbed positively identified him as the alleged attacker.

McDowell has been arraigned on state police charges of robbery, aggravated and simple assault, burglary felony trespassing, recklessly endangering, theft, forgery, identity theft and theft from a vehicle. City police have charged him with additional counts of robbery, simple assault, recklessly endangering, theft, receiving stolen property and theft from a vehicle.

He remains jailed in the Lycoming County Prison in lieu of $475,000 bail.