"They were objects," Aaron Thomas told The Washington Post in a series of telephone interviews from his jail cell in Virginia's Prince William County. "Whoever came down the street, an object. ... It's awful. It's scary. ... I don't know why I couldn't just stop."
Thomas said that he doesn't think he is crazy, but that he knows something is wrong with him.
"I did so much, I can't remember," he said, adding that it all blends together.
Thomas, 40, is expected to plead guilty this month for the Halloween adbuction of three women in 2009 in Prince William County and a Loudoun county rape in 2001. He faces the possibility of several life terms in prison.
Thomas is the son of a Washington police officer who later committed suicide. Family members described a troubled childhood that included a two-week stay at a psychiatric facility in Georgetown after setting a girl's hair on fire. He later spent the first three years of high school in an Upper Marlboro treatment center.
Michael Battle, Thomas's older brother, said their father was a strict disciplinarian.
"You didn't do anything out of sorts or it was hell to pay. When we started to fight back in our way, problems started. With Aaron, it seemed to go way down a rabbit hole. It went further."
Thomas once beat another elementary school student with the chain from a playground swing and lit a firecracker indoors at a relative's home on the Fourth of July, starting a fire, his brother said. Thomas' mother, Shirley Thomas, said he began misbehaving early.
"Aaron was a funny child. He always wanted to make me laugh. Very loving," said his mother, Shirley Thomas. "In first grade, he started acting out. To me it was just Aaron. He was a different child. He would act out but would tell me he was sorry."
Thomas was arrested in Connecticut in March 2011 after a multi-state law effort to catch the man believed responsible for rapes and attacks on 17 women since 1997 in Maryland, Virginia, Connecticut and Rhode Island. He was arrested after police received a tip and obtained a sample of his DNA from a discarded cigarette butt.
Thomas said the rapes began in the early 1990s when he was living in a burned-out pet store in Forestville after being kicked out of the house by his father.
"I was sitting in the building just doing nothing," Thomas said, adding he got an urge, his heart started to race and he walked outside. "It was like, bam, who cares?"
Thomas said he saw a prostitute walking down the street, got her attention, scared her into a patch of woods and raped her, adding he doesn't think the rape was ever reported.
"I felt like an animal. I didn't care," Thomas said.
Thomas said he went back to the store, went to sleep, and when he woke up the next morning, he felt, sad, scared and ashamed, a feeling that accompanied each attack.
Investigators say only Thomas knows the full extent of the attacks, and he admits he doesn't remember his victims' faces and has only a muddled sense of the events, saying there "was no thinking" in any of it.
Along the way, Thomas said he also had serious relationships with two women.
Jewell Hicks, who lived with Thomas, said their relationship was tumultuous. Thomas was overprotective and had a nearly insatiable sex drive. Several times when she was able to fend him off, he would get up and leave the house, sometimes for hours.
Hicks' son, Jorell Cruz, said he remembers Thomas leaving late at night and returning sometimes hours later.
"He got upset, but every time he gets upset, he'd leave out and come back home the same night or the next morning, and they'd make up," Cruz said. "I thought he was giving my mom some space, but who knows what he was doing out there."