PORT RICHEY — State investigators have determined that there is no evidence to support a woman's claim that she was raped by then-Port Richey City Council member Dale Massad.
The woman refused to submit to a rape exam after the alleged April 4 incident, according to a report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
She told three different stories in less than 12 hours, the report said.
And in June, she signed a form telling investigators to drop the case altogether.
So why did it take until Friday for FDLE to close the case?
"There's no way to determine how long a case will take to get solved," said FDLE spokeswoman Trena Reddick. "The time frame could vary. It could be a couple months, or a couple years."
That wasn't much comfort for Massad, who spent the past six months under a cloud of investigation for a crime he flatly denies committing.
Massad, 57, said he's relieved about the outcome.
"I've never in my wildest dreams figured out why this took so long," Massad said. "I'm very confused about that."
According to a report from the Port Richey Police Department, the woman alleged the incident happened April 4 after a party Massad held at his home. It was the weekend before the council member was defeated in his bid for re-election.
According to the FDLE, the woman's neighbor called the Tarpon Springs Police Department on April 6. In an 11-hour span, the woman — whose name was withheld due to the nature of the allegations — told three different stories to investigators.
First, she told a Tarpon Springs officer that she was raped by three black men outside of a Hess gas station at U.S. 19 and Grand Boulevard in Port Richey.
Later that day, while at Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital, she told Port Richey police that she was sexually assaulted while Massad looked on.
Early on the morning of April 7, the woman changed her story yet again, telling Port Richey police that the incident actually occurred at Dale Massad's house, and that he was the person who raped her.
Later that day, Port Richey police turned the case over to the FDLE because of Massad's status as a council member at the time of the incident.
Two months later, on June 20, the woman signed a form indicating that she didn't want to pursue a criminal investigation against Massad.
An FDLE investigator spoke to the state attorney's office, which determined there wasn't enough evidence to prosecute the case because the woman "did not know for sure what happened," and that there was no physical evidence to support a rape allegation.
The woman's neighbor told the Tarpon Springs officer the woman had been "crying and drinking large amounts of alcohol since the incident occurred," according to the FDLE.
Massad says he was never contacted by the FDLE.
"There's months of this fear that you're going to get prosecuted for something you didn't do," he said. "Now, I feel fine. I don't need vindication. I'm just glad justice prevailed."
Camille C. Spencer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.