DA: Neighbors got predator away from East Boston girl; now he's eyed in other attacks

Investigators are looking into potential connections among the Sept. 8 incident with other, similar assaults in East Boston.

Prosecutors say alert neighbors managed to get Jose Avila, 39, away from the girl he was busy molesting after stopping his car when he noticed her playing with friends:

[Assistant District Attorney Ellen] Lemire told the court that the young victim was playing outside with friends with neighborhood children on the afternoon of Sept. 8 when a member of her family told her to come inside. As she gathered up her toys, she lost her grip on a toy brush that blew into the street. The girl went to pick up the brush, Lemire said, but stopped because a car was coming. The girl waited for the dark-colored sedan to pass, she said, but instead it stopped.

A man exited the car, picked up the brush, and gave it to the girl, Lemire said. As he did so, the man sexually assaulted her. The incident was witnessed by children in the area and a neighbor who happened to be looking out the window of a nearby upper-floor apartment. That neighbor shouted at the man to leave the girl alone. The neighbor then came downstairs to the scene. The girl, who was visibly upset by the incident, gave an account consistent with those of others in the area.

Witnesses told responding Boston Police that they had seen the assailant in the neighborhood before but did not know his name. Based on interviews and other evidence, detectives on Saturday provided the adult witness with a photo array from which he positively identified Avila, prosecutors said.

In addition to bail, Avila was ordered to stay away from all children under 17 - except his own child.

Innocent, etc.