Arrest made in St. Petersburg sex assault on 19-year-old woman

ST. PETERSBURG — Police arrested a man they say raped a young woman early Thursday morning as she walked home from the store.

John Charles Ross Andrews, 27, of Gulfport was booked into the Pinellas County Jail on a charge of sexual battery.

Authorities say he attacked and raped the woman, who is 19, before dawn on Thursday, then rode away on a bicycle.

The woman had just left the Walmart at 3501 34th St. S about 5:30 a.m. and was walking home when a man got off his bike, ran up to the teen and pulled her into bushes near 38th Avenue S and 38th Street.

The young woman said she recognized the man.

She told police she'd seen him enter the Walmart earlier while she was there.

The man likely followed the girl, said police spokesman Mike Puetz.

"And then when he saw an opportunity, he took it," Puetz said.

After the attack, the man got back on his white and green bicycle and rode away, police said.

After reviewing the store's security footage, detectives believe the suspect was caught on camera while in the store.

Several hours later, about 4:30 p.m., officers spotted him riding his bike in the 3500 block of 20th Avenue S, Puetz said.

Officials also are looking into whether Andrews is the same man who attacked and sexually assaulted a 15-year-old girl in September under a secluded Interstate 275 overpass between 34th Street and 31 Street S.

In that attack, the girl was riding her skateboard on her way home from school — a path police had said she had traveled regularly.

As she approached 31st Street, police said, an unidentified man grabbed her from behind, dragged her to the ground and sexually assaulted her.

About half an hour passed before the man released the girl, police said.

He was last seen riding a bicycle west along the footpath toward 34th Street.

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Andrews has a criminal record dating back to 2003, including several arrests for battery. Authorities arrested him earlier this year on drug possession charges.

Arrest made in St. Petersburg sex assault on 19-year-old woman 11/03/11 [Last modified: Thursday, November 3, 2011 10:49pm]

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