Convicted sex offender accused of using knife in Lealman sexual battery

ST. PETERSBURG — A 52-year-old convicted sex offender was arrested early Thursday after he raped a woman at knifepoint, deputies said.

Eric Jerome Smith of St. Petersburg was arrested just before 1:45 a.m. near Park Boulevard and U.S. 19 N, an hour after deputies found a 41-year-old woman partially nude and "visibly shaken" outside a church at 2825 58th Ave. N in Lealman.

Officials think that's where the attack occurred.

The victim's identity was not released given the nature of the crime. She and Smith did not know each other, said Pinellas sheriff's Sgt. David Disano.

During the sexual battery, deputies said, Smith threatened the woman with a knife and cut her left hand. She was hospitalized and released overnight, Disano said.

Smith is being held at the Pinellas County Jail without bond on charges of sexual battery with a deadly weapon and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

According to Florida's sex offender registry, Smith was convicted of two counts of rape in Illinois in 1988. He has recently been living in the 2500 block of 54th Avenue N.

His arrest came just hours after Clearwater police arrested Larry Wayne Coburn Jr., an ex-convict with a history of violent crime, in the alleged kidnapping and sexual assault of two women at gunpoint.

Both incidents were random and the victims did not know their attackers, police said.

Court records from Cook County, Ill., show Smith was charged in 1998 with one count of sexual violence. He was convicted, but officials determined he was unlikely to re-offend. It was unclear Thursday if he served any prison time.

Smith has also been arrested several times in Illinois and Florida over the last 20 years for failure to report a change of address as a registered sex offender.

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Marissa Lang can be reached at mlang@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8804.

Convicted sex offender accused of using knife in Lealman sexual battery 04/26/12 [Last modified: Thursday, April 26, 2012 10:51pm]

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