By Ben Fractenberg and Amy Zimmer
MANHATTAN —The "well-dressed" man arrested in connection with a groping spree on the Upper East Side and Downtown was a graduate of a Christian college in Florida who co-hosted regular Bible study groups with his roommate at their Park Slope apartment, according to neighbors.
Karl Vanderwoude, 26, lives in a basement apartment on a tony stretch of Prospect Park West, where he and his roommate hosted Monday night Bible studies at their apartment each week, a neighbor said.
"We had some meetings for bible study" in Vanderwoude's apartment, said Javier Maldonado, 38, a neighbor of the pair, who said he attended several Bible study groups at the apartment in recent months.
Maldonado said he was shocked to hear the news about Vanderwoude, adding, "He's a pretty quiet guy, a kind guy."
Vanderwoude was arrested Friday and charged with forcibly touching two women and with unlawful surveillance, police said.
He was believed to have grabbed a 19-year-old woman's buttocks near the corner of Second Avenue and East 67th Street on Feb. 27 just before 2 p.m., according to the criminal complaint.
On March 30, he allegedly grabbed a 22-year-old woman inside the subway station at Centre and Chambers streets, touching her buttocks and forcing her to stick her hand between her legs underneath her skirt while apparently recording with his cell phone, the complaint said. The woman then felt the man's hand near her groin while he had his cell phone underneath her skirt.
Maldonado said that Vanderwoude was a devout attendee at the Bible study meetings organized by Lance Villio, his roommate and fellow alumnus of Palm Beach Atlantic University, a Christian university in Florida.
Vanderwoude graduated from the school in 2007 with a Bachelor's degree in entrepreneurship and small business, according to the university. His roommate, Villio, earned a degree in ministry.
The liberal arts college, founded in 1968, has an enrollment of roughly 3,600 students, and "is dedicated to the development of moral character, the enrichment of spiritual lives and the perpetuation of growth in Christian ideals," according to the school's website.
Vanderwoude's landlady, Carmen Olmedo, could not believe that her tenant was responsible for the sexual attacks.
"He's such a wonderful, responsible and respectful person," she said. "He's very professional. He's always in his suits. He's very straight-laced."
She added: "I do not think he would do something like this, honestly. I really think they have the wrong person."
Vanderwoude, who was born in Michigan, has worked at several upscale companies in New York. He was a former public relations coordinator at Saks Fifth Avenue and sales coordinator at the swank 60 Thompson hotel, according to his LinkedIn profile.
He currently works as an operations coordinator at MVision Private Equity Advisers. The international firm, which is headquartered in London and has an office in Manhattan, helps private equity firm and other investment managers raise capital.
A woman answering the phone at the MVision, who said she was not authorized to comment, expressed disbelief that Vanderwoude would have been responsible for the grabbing the women.
"I'm positive it didn't happen," she said, directing the inquiry to the company's managing partner. The company declined to comment.
Olmedo said that when detectives came to her building earlier this week and showed her pictures of the suspect, she didn't even connect the images to Vanderwoude.
"That's not Karl's picture," she insisted. "I really feel that they're mistaken."
Vanderwoude's attorney, Lori Cohen, agreed with that assessment.
"I've seen all the photos on-line and they do not look anything like this gentleman," she said before Vanderwoude's arraignment Friday. "They could be pictures of any well dressed gentleman in his 20's or 30s."
At the arraignment, which was attended by his roommate Villio and his pastor, Vanderwaude was released without bail. He is due back in court on July 17.
With reporting by Paul Lomax.