NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A prosecutor says the man suspected of sexually assaulting at least 17 women from Virginia to Rhode Island asked, “Why haven’t you picked me up sooner?” when he was arrested last week.

Aaron Thomas made his first court appearance Monday in New Haven Superior Court in Connecticut, wearing sunglasses.

Prosecutor David Strollo says the unemployed truck driver whom police have dubbed the East Coast Rapist described himself as having “a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” personality regarding women.

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Thomas’ public defender declined to comment after the hearing. Bail was set at $1.5 million.

Strollo says DNA from a discarded cigarette confirmed that Thomas was the man wanted in attacks that began in 1997.

Thomas tried to hang himself Saturday in his cell and was returned to jail after a brief hospital stay.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.