Man sentenced to life in rape, kidnap that jolted Pinellas, Pasco

NEW PORT RICHEY — Arthur Jones III hurled a propane tank through his girlfriend's glass door in the early hours of Aug. 26, 2007, authorities said, then kidnapped her and raped her before she escaped.

A jury convicted Jones, 28, this week of sexual battery with a deadly weapon, kidnapping and tampering with a witness.

On Friday, a judge sent him to prison for life.

Jones remained on the lam for two months after the attack, with authorities in Pinellas and Pasco counties searching for him.

Authorities say he attacked his girlfriend's home on Keystone Road in Tarpon Springs about 4 a.m., then drove into Pasco County, where he tried to rape her at the end of a desolate road inside a black sport utility vehicle.

Assistant State Attorney Chip Stanton said Jones then checked into a Days Inn on U.S. 19 in Port Richey. There, he raped the woman.

He had a gun in reach, Stanton said.

As Jones drove back toward her home in Tarpon Springs, the woman bailed out of the car. Jones tried to run her over twice, Stanton said, one time in her driveway.

As Tarpon Springs police officers arrived on the scene, Jones took off.

Police said he tried to hit an officer in a squad car and then swerved at another officer who had ordered him to halt. As it headed east on Keystone Drive, the SUV inexplicably caught fire.

Jones leapt out as it crashed into an embankment, then ran away. Police dogs tracked him to the edge of a lake north of Keystone and east of Highland Avenue, but he was not found.

Authorities located him two months later in Suwannee County.

Stanton presented DNA evidence from the rape during the trial, and the woman, 33, testified about her ordeal.

At his sentencing, Jones told Circuit Judge Michael Andrews that he still cares for her and wishes her the best.

"I'm not necessarily a bad person," he said. "I've made some bad choices in my life. I've learned a lot."

Jones still has charges pending in both counties.

But on the rape and kidnapping, Andrews had no choice but to send him away for life because Jones was designated a prison release re-offender — he had been out of prison less than a year when the rape occurred.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

Man sentenced to life in rape, kidnap that jolted Pinellas, Pasco 10/16/09 [Last modified: Friday, October 16, 2009 11:13pm]

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