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Victim recounts 2007 rape at knifepoint

TAMPA — A woman closed her eyes and moaned Tuesday as she recounted for jurors the night a stranger crept into her bedroom and raped her at knifepoint.

"Don't hurt me," she said.

"Shh, shh," the man whispered. "Don't say nothing, or I'll hurt the kids."

Prosecutors pinned the Aug. 19, 2007, attack on Jerrod Pass, who they said sexually battered at least seven women since 2003 in blighted neighborhoods near the University of South Florida.

Prosecutors say DNA links Pass to the crimes, and they say he matches the victims' common description of the rapist — a dark-skinned, barefoot man with a scar on his left forearm and body odor.

Pass, 39, is on trial this week for the first of the rape cases to be heard by a jury. His public defenders argue that he is innocent.

The 39-year-old woman who testified against Pass on Tuesday fit the mold of his alleged victims: single black mothers with young children in their homes. She worked as a nurse's aide at an assisted living facility and lived in an apartment complex located south of Fletcher Avenue. The St. Petersburg Times is withholding her name due to the nature of the crime.

She seemed to relive the attack as she spoke, her body squirming and flinching when she described the most painful moments.

She awoke to someone tugging on her feet, she said. Then she felt a knife at her neck.

Her young daughter slept in a nearby room. Worried for her child's safety after the man's threats, the woman said she did not fight or make any noise.

The man covered her head with pillows and bedding before raping her, she said.

She never got a good look at his face and was unable to point him out in court.

Pass, who sat expressionless throughout the testimony, was one of more than 50 men stopped and questioned by investigators who saturated the neighborhoods where the rapes occurred. He allowed a detective to take a swab of his DNA.

At the time, Pass was known as a friendly prep cook at a chain restaurant. He had a handful of misdemeanor arrests on his record.

But after analysts matched his DNA to various crime scenes, the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office charged him with a string of felony sexual batteries and armed burglaries.

The woman who testified Tuesday said Pass asked for money before he left.

Afterward, she realized that her purse and its contents were missing.

Assistant State Attorney Rita Peters said detectives found them in Pass' storage unit.

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

Victim recounts 2007 rape at knifepoint 06/16/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 17, 2009 9:45am]
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