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Three men sought in weekend rapes of two women

APOLLO BEACH — The attack began at 3:30 a.m. Saturday as two women, ages 24 and 31, closed up a restaurant where they work.

Three men with guns — described as Hispanic and in their 20s — abducted, robbed and repeatedly raped the women, according to sheriff's officials, who released details and photos of one of the men Monday.

The four-hour ordeal ended when the women found call boxes along Interstate 75 in northern Manatee County and alerted authorities.

"Everyone is very shook up and traumatized," said 23-year-old Steve Smith of Apollo Beach, as he locked up the restaurant Monday for a friend who owns it. The Sheriff's Office is not identifying the women and the Times is withholding the business name because of the nature of the crimes.

According to a sheriff's report, the attack unfolded like this:

As one of the women left the restaurant, the three men approached her in the parking lot, robbed her at gunpoint and then forced her back inside, where the other woman had remained.

The men robbed the restaurant and forced both women into one of the victims' vehicles. The five drove to Dickman Drive, a road that curves alongside the Alafia River near the TECO plant in southeastern Hillsborough County.

There, according to the Sheriff's Office, the women were sexually assaulted by all three men.

Next, the men went with the women to a Bank of America ATM and tried to withdraw money from the 24-year-old victim's account.

The bank's surveillance camera captured an image of one of the men.

The men drove to an unknown location and let one suspect out. The other two continued on with the women to a Chevron station on U.S. 41 north of College Avenue. The man photographed at the ATM went inside the Chevron and was caught by surveillance video there, too.

The men took the women to another location, where they both raped one of them again.

The two men left the women along Interstate 75 near mile marker 234 in Manatee County, where the victims later called for help. The women were treated at a hospital and released.

Their vehicle was found abandoned in Manatee County that same morning. Someone had set fire to it.

Monday, authorities released photos taken from the surveillance video and asked the public's help in finding the men.

Fellow business owners in the area heard about the weekend attack and took stock of their own security.

At Hungry Howie's Pizza & Subs, manager Robert James, 19, of Apollo Beach said his boss told workers Monday to lock back doors after 9 p.m. and to not go alone to the trash bin.

"I feel a little nervous," James said. "I'm going to be more aware."

Authorities released these descriptions of the men. The first, pictured, is 5-foot-7 to 5-foot-8, 160 to 180 pounds, medium build, with black hair, a light mustache and stubble beard. He wore a blue plaid shirt, blue baseball cap and work gloves.

Less detailed descriptions were offered of the other two: The second man had a thin build, wore dark clothing and a yellow hat. The third, also with a thin build, wore lighter-colored clothing.

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Want to help?

Anyone with information about the Apollo Beach attacks should call the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office at (813) 247-8200 or Crime Stoppers toll-free at 1-800-873-8477.

Three men sought in weekend rapes of two women 08/18/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 20, 2008 10:23am]
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