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Arrest made in brutal attacks

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Police officers escort Siaosi Vesi Siliaga, left, to jail on Tuesday.

Police officers escort Siaosi Vesi Siliaga, left, to jail on Tuesday.

Michael Brandy, Deseret Morning News

WEST VALLEY CITY — A man police called a "coward" who allegedly preyed on older women was arrested Tuesday.

Investigators believe Siaosi Vesi Siliaga, 38, is responsible for both the beating of an 85-year-old woman inside her house Dec. 16 and the stabbing of a church volunteer Jan. 3. He was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of two counts of aggravated robbery.

Media coverage of the brutal attacks, along with the allure of big rewards, generated tips that led to Siliaga's arrest about 12:30 p.m., said West Valley Police Capt. Steve Sandquist.

Investigators had been keeping surveillance on his apartment near 2200 West and 3800 South since Monday, he said.

Police believe Siliaga had previous knowledge of both of his alleged victims.

On Jan. 3, 61-year-old Jill Johnson was stabbed four times while working at the Granger Community Christian Church food pantry, 3800 S. 2640 West. Even though the attacker wore a ski mask, Johnson said there was something familiar about him.

Police now believe Siliaga had actually sought assistance from the pantry prior to Johnson's being robbed. Johnson was expected to be released from the hospital this week.

Johnson's car was stolen during the attack. A tip led police to an area close to Siliaga's apartment Tuesday about 3:30 a.m., where they found the car abandoned. Sandquist said some area residents appeared motivated by the $10,000 reward to go out and actively seek the stolen car.

Georgina Anderson, 85, was severely beaten when a man who appeared to have some knowledge of her dealings as a landlord tricked her into unlocking her door.

Sandquist said investigators believe Siliaga had friends who lived in the same neighborhood as Anderson, which is how he found out about her.

Anderson was released from a hospital recently and continues to recover at a convalescent home.

A warrant was served on Siliaga's apartment Tuesday. Sandquist said evidence detectives believe links Siliaga to both crimes was collected, but he declined to give specific details so the case would not be compromised.

Both attacks enraged police and the community. Officers said they are glad to have the man off the street.

"He's a coward," Sandquist said. "For him to go prey on elderly women like this. His just reward is coming."

Siliaga moved to Utah from California in September, Sandquist said. In California, he had an extensive criminal record that included aggravated robbery and auto theft, he said. West Valley police did not know Tuesday if the victims in the robberies in California were elderly women.

Because Siliaga may have been responsible for both crimes, Sandquist said the tip that led investigators to him may be eligible for both $10,000 rewards.

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com