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Man found guilty in USF area rape case

TAMPA — A jury took one hour Thursday to find Jerrod Pass guilty of sexually battering a woman at knifepoint, the first of seven University of South Florida area rape cases against him to go to trial.

Pass, 39, will be sentenced Aug. 3. Also convicted of armed burglary with an assault, he faces up to three life prison sentences.

Earlier this week, a 39-year-old woman writhed on the witness stand as she recalled being awoken Aug. 19, 2007, by a stranger who raped her as her young daughter slept in a nearby room.

The woman could not identify her attacker. She said he had covered her face with pillows.

Pass maintained his innocence. Jennifer Spradley, one of his public defenders, tried to poke holes in the state's case Thursday, questioning the victim's credibility, the quality of DNA evidence and physical findings on the victim that could also be consistent with consensual sex.

She called the prosecution a "rush to judgment" and argued that nothing tied Pass to the victim's apartment.

But Assistant State Attorney Rita Peters countered with the two key pieces of evidence against Pass.

One was his DNA found on the victim. "The DNA was certain," she said. "The DNA was his."

The other piece of evidence came from Pass' rented storage unit: the victim's purse, which disappeared from her apartment after the attack.

"If this isn't his DNA, if he didn't do this, why is her purse in his storage unit?" Peters said.

Authorities say Pass terrorized single black mothers between 2003 and 2007 before he was caught with the help of a DNA sample he voluntarily supplied detectives who led him to believe they were investigating a burglary.

He fit the victims' common description of the rapist, a dark-skinned, barefoot man with a scar on his left forearm and a foul body odor.

The woman at the center of this week's case gasped in the back of the courtroom after hearing the first of three guilty verdicts. Then she set her lips firm, holding back tears.

After the jury left, Peters and the woman embraced. The prosecutor told her to get a peaceful night's sleep.

"You won't have to worry about him now," Peters said.

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at cjenkins@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3337.

Man found guilty in USF area rape case 06/18/09 [Last modified: Thursday, June 18, 2009 10:09pm]
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