Monday, April 23, 2018
News Roundup

Pasco rapist gets life in prison

DADE CITY — An armed man who terrorized his estranged wife on New Year's Eve, barricaded himself in a home with their three children and had a four-hour standoff with the Pasco SWAT team, was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday after pleading to a host of charges, including the rape of a young woman at gunpoint.

Joseph Lee Stafford, 54, was accused of raping the woman multiple times. His trial was set for this week but he entered an open plea after a jury was chosen.

Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa sentenced Stafford to life for three counts of sexual battery and two counts of kidnapping. He also got 15 years for being a felon in possession of a firearm, 15 years for aggravated battery and 10 years for aggravated assault, as well as five years for failing to register as a sex offender. Those sentences will run concurrently with the life term.

Stafford, a registered sex offender with a long criminal past, tied up his estranged wife at a home where he lived on Woodtrail Lane near Zephyrhills, sheriff's reports said.

She freed herself and ran to neighbors to get help.

Investigators learned that Stafford had left the scene to go to a home where she lived at 4919 18th St. He was inside with their three children.

A SWAT team was called out to the home at 1:17 a.m. Stafford surrendered at 5:08 a.m., the Sheriff's Office said.

No one was injured.

The sexual battery happened in Zephyrhills and Stafford knew the victim, authorities said. The Times is withholding her name because of the nature of the crime.

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