Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Authorities look for links in restaurant rapes

APOLLO BEACH — On both sides of Tampa Bay, authorities are investigating whether recent robberies and sexual assaults at restaurants are more than coincidence.

"There are obviously similarities," St. Petersburg police spokesman Bill Proffitt said.

In both cases, suspects described as three Hispanic men raped victims early in the morning as they were leaving their restaurant jobs.

Hillsborough County sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said the two agencies are comparing "several things," but she would not elaborate. Proffitt has previously said the men in the St. Petersburg case left behind physical evidence.

On Aug. 3, three masked, armed men forced their way into the Table in downtown St. Petersburg as a busboy took out the trash. The trio stole cash and raped one of the employees.

On Saturday, at the Docks in Apollo Beach, three men with guns robbed, abducted and raped two women as they closed the bar.

Asked if authorities had collected DNA samples to compare, Proffitt declined to answer.

People on both sides of the bay have reacted in horror at the crimes.

"Everyone around here is hoping it doesn't become a serial thing," said Joe Moledo, 40, general manager at the Table. "We're just trying to get our lives back to normal."

The rape victim is getting treatment and has not yet come back to work, he said.

'Still in shock'

Residents of the usually relaxed bayfront community of Apollo Beach are looking over their shoulders after the attack.

"I'm still in shock," Karen Norris, 53, said while leaving the Publix Shopping Center on U.S. 41, where the Docks restaurant is located. She stood just across the parking lot from where the women were abducted, looking at the facade of the business.

"You think you live in a nice little area where everyone knows each other and that nothing like this could happen," Norris said, shaking her head. "It certainly makes you more aware."

Sandwiched between Gibsonton to the north and Ruskin to the south, Apollo Beach is a small community known for its mix of waterfront mansions, older canal-front ranch houses and more modest homes. Vicious crimes like the one that took place last weekend are extremely rare.

At the Hair Carvers salon, next door to the Docks, employees are no longer allowed to stay late or by themselves, owner Vickie Tawney said. In 16 years at the plaza, she said she couldn't recall such a crime.

"It's unfortunate, but we'll just have to take on business when we can," she said. "We all feel really horrible about what happened. You think you're safe, and then you're not. And to think that something like that happened in a small place like this."

Inside his restaurant, Docks owner Shawn Haverfield sat at the bar Tuesday, looking over a benefit flier he created for his two employees.

Lunch patrons filed past the note in the front window, and a pile of the printouts were stacked on the bar. Customers looked over newspapers, talking about what happened.

Robbery, then rape

Hillsborough deputies say that about 3 a.m. Saturday, the men confronted one of the Docks employees in the parking lot, then forced her back inside the restaurant where the other employee remained.

The men then robbed the restaurant and forced the two women, ages 24 and 31, into one of the victim's vehicles. All three of them raped the women in a field near the Tampa Electric plant in Apollo Beach.

The victims were then taken to an ATM, where the men tried to withdraw money from one victim's account. The women were later dropped off along Interstate 75 in Manatee County, where they called for help.

This weekend and next, Haverfield will donate a portion of proceeds to help the two women with expenses. He found out about what happened to them while returning Sunday from vacation. On Tuesday, he was setting up an account for donations.

"We feel awful," he said.

Times news researcher Will Gorham contributed to this report. Chandra Broadwater can be reached at or (813) 661-2454.

>>fast facts

The suspects

Authorities describe one of the suspects as 5 feet 7 to 5 feet 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. The second man had a thin build, wore dark clothing and a yellow hat. The third was also of thin build and wore lighter-colored clothing. Call Crime Stoppers, which is offering a $1,000 reward, toll-free at 1-800-873-8477, anonymously report online at or send an anonymous text message to C-R-I-M-E-S (274637), keyword TIP155.

Benefit for victims planned

A benefit for the two victims will be held at the Docks Bar and Grill this weekend and next. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the two women. Bands have also donated time to the benefit, which takes place Aug. 22, 23 and 29 from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. For more information, call the restaurant at 641-8792.

Authorities look for links in restaurant rapes 08/19/08 [Last modified: Monday, August 25, 2008 2:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Here kitty, kitty ...


    In a toned down version of the annual rookie dress-up day based on MLB's new anti-hazing policy, Rays rookie players and staff - plus second-year LHP Blake Snell - donned DJ Kitty onesies for the trip to New York.

    Rays rookie players and staff - joined here by Alex Colome - sporting their DJ Kitty onesies before the flight to New York.
  2. Pasco residents affected by Irma invited to town hall meeting

    Local Government

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Representatives from Pasco County Emergency Management and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will play host to a town hall-style meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday in the first-floor boardroom of the West Pasco Government Center, 8731 Citizens Drive, New Port Richey

    Sandra Cunningham assesses the damage a water oak did to her Church Avenue home when it crashed into her bedroom roof during Hurricane Irma.
  3. Lightning's Nikita Kucherov has a lot to say — about moving on to a much better season

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Nikita Kucherov sits back in his stall and smiles.

    Laughs a little, too.

    Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) prepares for a faceoff during the first period of Friday's  (9/22/17) preseason game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Nashville Predators at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. Clearwater man shot, seriously injured


    CLEARWATER — A shooting Sunday morning in unincorporated Clearwater left one man seriously injured, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

  5. Mother of double amputee Ireland Nugent to lose her own lower right leg

    Human Interest

    Ever since Ireland Nugent lost both her lower legs in a lawn-mowing accident five years ago, the Clearwater girl has inspired her mother, Nicole Del Corpo-Nugent, with the courage she has shown in overcoming the tragedy.

    Nicole Del Corpo-Nugent, left, looked on as her daughter Ireland threw out the first pitch when the Tampa Bay Rays played the Houston Astros at Tropicana Field on June 22, 2014. Jerry Nugent held his daughter for the pitch. Now Nicole Del Corpo-Nugent is facing surgery to amputate her own lower right leg due to a rare infection. WILL VRAGOVIC  |  Times (2014)