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St. Thomas Students Help Put Peeping Tom Behind Bars

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) -- St. Paul police say a serial peeping tom is behind bars thanks in part to the young women he was targeting.

John David Searle, 44, is back in jail Sunday night, accused again of invading peoples' privacy. Police say last week, he was peeping in several windows, near the University of St. Thomas.

The young women who spotted him were stunned to learn, he's been arrested many times before. Searle has five prior felony convictions for harassment and stalking in addition to several misdemeanor convictions for interfering with privacy.

One of the women says she hopes something will change this time, and he won't be able to do this to anyone else.

Last Tuesday, Emma Button says her roommate saw a peeping Tom in their yard for the first time. He ran away, but she and the seven other college women living inside the duplex near St. Thomas couldn't believe it when he came back the next night.

"She grabbed her pepper spray and we grabbed our phones, and we just walked out of our house," Button said.

But there's disbelief in her words -- the 21-year-old didn't know her on strength.

"I don't remember our walk completely, because I think I was pretty on task," she said.

Working on adrenaline, she and her roommate Brittney -- who wants to pursue law enforcement -- did something they knew was dangerous to help police catch the peeping Tom: They walked outside and took pictures of his license plates.

"He was hiding in the gap between houses at this point," Button said.

They went back home and called the police, who matched the plate's to Searle's car. Officers say they tailed him the next night on the same block and arrested him for window peeping.

Soon, the young women found out about Searle's history.

"It's just disgusting," Button said. "There's just no other word to describe it."

We talked with college students back in 2004 who believed Searle targeted them.

"I think they need to crack down on this guy," one of the victims said, more than a decade ago. "He needs to get some help or go to jail."

Their words echo Button's words today.

"I hope that he changes," she said. "So whatever it would take for this behavior to stop. So whether that means he's in prison or receives some intense help."

Searle is being held on $200,000 bail. He's due in court Monday for his first appearance. If convicted this time, his charge carries a max sentence of two years.

Ramsey County court documents say Searle said he was shocked and couldn't understand what had happened and claimed he was just driving his car.

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