Sexual assault suspect found dead in cell

A Tierrasanta man accused of seven sexual assaults on women in San Diego over the past year, including one in the UCSD area, died by hanging Thursday in his cell at the San Diego Central Jail in an apparent suicide, according to the Medical Examiner’s Office and sheriff’s officials.

The body of Thomas James Parker, 39, was found hanging by from a sheet around 7 a.m.

by deputies conducting a security check, according to the coroner.

Deputies, the jail’s medical staff, firefighters and paramedics attempted lifesaving measures, but he was soon pronounced dead, said San Diego sheriff’s Sgt. Roy Frank.

Parker was not on suicide watch, said sheriff’s Lt. Julie Sutton.

The husband and father of two children was arrested Wednesday after he allegedly tried to rape a 33-year-old Mission Valley woman in her garage, threatening her with a knife and grabbing her.

The Escala Circle resident screamed and fought back, and the assailant fled.

Parker was captured by police at a shopping center a few blocks away with help from passersby, including two off-duty Border Patrol agents.

Police said he had been linked through DNA and other evidence to seven sexual assaults.

Genetic evidence implicated Parker in at least three of seven home-invasion sexual assaults and robberies that began in June 2008, San Diego police said.

The assaults occurred in Carmel Valley, Tierrasanta, the College area and near UC San Diego, as well as Mission Valley.

Based on DNA evidence and other similarities in the assaults, authorities said they planned to charge Parker with all seven assaults.

Most of the victims were young Asian women, and in all of the attacks, the assailant demanded money before sexually assaulting the women, police said.

Getting the man responsible had been a high priority for the San Diego Police Department.

“Our efforts paid off (Wednesday) when (the) victim decided she was going to fight back against her attacker,’' said SDPD Capt. Jim Collins.

Parker had been scheduled to be arraigned Monday.