Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa rapist's teen victim lives in fear after his escape

When he was initially charged, John Jerome Speights Jr., known as “Poppa Love,” fled and was tracked down by U.S. Marshals.

Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office

When he was initially charged, John Jerome Speights Jr., known as “Poppa Love,” fled and was tracked down by U.S. Marshals.

TAMPA — Last week, the 16-year-old girl had the courage to testify about all the times John Jerome Speights Jr. raped her, about the fear she felt when he told her to keep quiet, about the day she learned she would have his baby.

Speights wasn't there to hear it. The man on bail left the courtroom to use the bathroom that morning and never returned. A jury convicted him anyway.

The rapist remains on the loose.

And the girl is scared.

"He just needs to be caught," she told the St. Petersburg Times on Thursday.

A Hillsborough County sheriff's detective says that's his No. 1 priority.

"We think he's dangerous now," Detective Marvin Johnson said. "He's facing a lot of time in jail. We really need to grab him before he gets so far in the ground that he gets really hidden. …

"We are concerned with this victim and any other victims that are out there," he said. "We need to get him off the street."

Johnson says he and at least 30 other members of the U.S. Marshals fugitive task force are working in Tampa and beyond to find Speights, 45.

They're familiar with him.

When he was initially charged with the rapes, he fled and they tracked him down.

The longtime felon has been arrested 28 times in Florida on charges that include battery, bigamy, aggravated assault, domestic violence and cruelty to a child.

The girl, a relative, was staying at his home, where he lived with 14 of his children, when he stirred her from a bunk bed one night, saying he needed to talk, she testified in court last week.

It was August 2006. She was 12. He raped her on the floor of her living room and didn't stop when she said it hurt.

Afterward, she was in the bathroom when he slipped $20 under the door. He told her she couldn't tell anybody.

It happened again on the bunk bed, and again on a lounge chair cushion outside. Once he fondled her while his 6-year-old son slept in the bed.

DNA evidence shows there is a 99.99 percent chance that her 2-year-old boy is his son.

Despite the evidence, some of Speights' relatives have told the girl they didn't want her in the family. A Tampa police detective checks in regularly with the girl's mother to make sure she's okay.

Johnson says he is talking to America's Most Wanted to get Speights' mug shot on national television.

The girl's mother hopes detectives catch Speights soon. She wants to look him in the face when he's sentenced.

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3354.

Help find Speights

If you have information on John Jerome Speights Jr., known as "Poppa Love," call CrimeStoppers toll-free at 1-800-873-8477.

Tampa rapist's teen victim lives in fear after his escape 05/06/10 [Last modified: Friday, May 7, 2010 10:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Mom accused of burying guns after fatal teen shooting declines plea deal

    Criminal

    TAMPA — The Valrico mother accused of hiding the guns after her teenage son shot and killed another boy in their garage told a judge Tuesday that she wants a trial, not a plea deal.

    Heidi Quinn is accused of hiding two guns after her son, Cody, fatally shot 17-year-old Jayquon Johnson in their garage. She faces charges of tampering with evidence. Her son was not charged in Johnson's death because authorities ruled it self-defense. He does face related drug charges. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  2. Stone says no coordination between Trump campaign and Russia

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Longtime Donald Trump associate Roger Stone said Tuesday he's "aware of no evidence whatsoever" that Trump's campaign coordinated with Russians during the 2016 election.

  3. Pasco deputies: Citgo gas station was selling pipes for crack and meth

    Crime

    TRILBY — A Citgo gas station is facing hefty fines after Pasco County Sheriff's deputies said clerks weren't just selling gas, but doling out pipes for crack and meth.

  4. What to expect from the Florida Orchestra's 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone' show

    Events

    With just a few short tings from the celesta, a small piano-style instrument, and you're instantly transported to Harry Potter's wizarding world.

    Courtesy of the Straz Center
  5. Police: Boy, 12, burglarized Melrose Elementary during Hurricane Irma

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — A 12-year-old boy is facing a felony charge after police say he burglarized Melrose Elementary while the school was closed for Hurricane Irma.

    Melrose Elementary at 1752 13th Ave. S in St. Petersburg was burglarized while the school was closed for Hurricane Irma. A 12-year-old boy has been charged, police said. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]