CLEARWATER — After a disagreement with her boyfriend, Lydia Ann Tross left their second-floor apartment on Highland Avenue and went for a walk.
She never returned.
Four days later, her body was discovered in a grassy ditch north of Fairmont Street near the Pinellas Trail, more than a mile from her home.
Detectives determined that Tross, 41, was killed by a stranger as she walked alone on the trail. Dewayne Xavier Jones, 18, faces a first-degree murder charge in connection to her slaying, police announced Tuesday.
The source of their tip: a member of Jones' family.
"We're thankful," said Clearwater police Chief Dan Slaughter during a news conference Tuesday, "that they did the right thing."
According to police, Tross wandered onto the Pinellas Trail sometime after dusk Aug. 5. That's when she encountered Jones, who lives less than a mile away in a house on Betty Lane.
Jones confronted Tross, snatched her purse, ripped her clothing off, and inflicted "sharp force injuries to her neck and throat," according to an arrest affidavit.
On Saturday, a man picking flowers near the trail with his grandson discovered her decomposing corpse and called police.
Detectives recalled Tross' boyfriend, Lawrence Staley, had reported her missing and identified her through the scattered belongings that remained in the ditch, Slaughter said.
On Sunday after police released her name, Jones' relative found her wallet, including Tross' I.D., inside his house. The relative, whom Slaughter did not identify Tuesday, called police.
During interviews with detectives on Sunday and Monday, Jones "made conflicting and incriminating statements," Slaughter said, declining to go into detail.
The medical examiner's office had not released Tross' cause of death Tuesday. Her family and boyfriend could not be reached for comment.
Tross' slaying is not an indication of an uptick in crime on the trail, Slaughter said.
"Crimes can happen anywhere," Slaughter said. "I think the trail is a safe environment and we're going to increase our (bike) patrols to make it even safer and to reassure people that it is safe."
In St. Petersburg, officials are moving forward with a plan to install cameras along stretches of the trail where a string of robberies occurred in southern parts of the city.
Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos said discussions of installing cameras here have not emerged.
"We're obviously going to have to take a look at this," he said, noting the trail is a county park.
Jones has previous convictions, records show. He was found guilty on burglary and vehicle theft charges last year when he was 17. Last month, Pinellas deputies arrested him on charges of drug possession and resisting arrest without violence.
Jones was booked into the Pinellas County Jail, where he remained Tuesday without bail.
Times staff researcher Caryn Baird and Times staff writer Mike Brassfield contributed to this report. Contact Laura C. Morel at [email protected] or (727)445-4157. Follow @lauracmorel.