RAHWAY — Authorities have apprehended and arrested a man they believe broke into at least three homes and sexually assaulted a 67-year-old woman.

The reported break-ins and assault happened within close proximity on Hazel Place and East Hazelwood Avenue between 4:30 and 5 a.m. Police had put out an open call for help with information on the case over the weekend.

Rahway police said on Facebook Tuesday Jermaine Ramirez, 24, of Newark had been arrested and was suspected of "several" burglaries in the area. He was charged with first-degree aggravated sexual assault, second-degree sexual assault, second-degree burglary, third degree aggravated criminal sexual contact.

Police didn't provide new details of the assault, but aggravated sexual assault is the most serious such crime on the books in New Jersey. Obtaining a conviction means proving the aggressor sexually penetrated a victim.

The charge can apply when the sexual assault happens during the commission of another crime — but other factors can trigger it as well, including use of a weapon or physical force.

As previously reported by New Jersey 101.5, the county prosecutor's office has said police responded to the first report about 4:30 a.m. after a homeowner spotted the man in the hallway outside his bedroom. Police said the man had gotten in through a second-floor window.

Residents of another home called police moments later after being awakened by a noise outside their house, the prosecutor's office said. The man ran off after residents yelled out when they saw him try to get through a rear sliding-glass door, the  office said.

The sexual assault victim said she woke up on the couch to find the man on top of her, according to the prosecutor's office. The woman was hospitalized with minor injuries, which prosecutors did not publicly describe. Police said the man got into the woman's East Hazelwood home through a back door.

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Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.

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