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DNA database links federal prisoner to Hillsborough rapes

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office has charged a federal prisoner with armed kidnapping and a series of rapes after his DNA was linked through a national database.

Mannot Lusca, 28, is accused of five counts of armed kidnapping, five counts of sexual battery, armed burglary and armed home invasion. He was booked late Thursday into a Hillsborough County jail.

Four of the victims were teen girls dragged off the street while walking in the University Area. A fifth victim was 20. Lusca is also suspected of attempting to assault a sixth woman, 22, who escaped.

Lusca has been serving time at the federal penitentiary in Atwater, Calif., for cocaine distribution. He was scheduled to be released in March.

Authorities notified local detectives in October that Lusca's DNA matched DNA collected from a series of Hillsborough rapes from 2002 to 2004, sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon said.

Detectives flew to California earlier this year. They obtained a second DNA sample from Lusca, and he confessed to five attacks, McKinnon said.

Without the DNA match, the case might have remained unsolved, said Maj. Donna Lusczynski of the criminal investigations division.

"We wouldn't have identified him as a suspect without it," Lusczynski said.

The identification might have come sooner had current state laws regarding the collection of DNA been in effect.

Over the next 10 years, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement plans to implement a 2009 law change that allows a DNA sample to be taken upon arrest for felony offenses and some misdemeanor offenses.

In 2006, Hillsborough County deputies arrested Lusca on charges of battery on a law enforcement officer and obstructing or opposing an officer with violence in an unrelated case. Both were felony charges that were dropped.

"At that point there were no rules on collecting DNA," Lusczynski said.

Lusca's eventual identification was triggered by changes to federal law that required DNA testing of those in federal custody, Lusczynski said.

She expects Lusca's arrest to bring some relief to victims.

The sexual assaults occurred between October 2002 and November 2004.

Times news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Shelley Rossetter can be reached at srossetter@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2442.

.FAST FACTS

The victims

Deputies suspect Mannot Lusca in these assaults:

Oct. 31, 2002: A 16-year-old was abducted as she walked to her bus stop and assaulted in an apartment laundry room in the 12200 block of N 22nd Street.

Feb. 21, 2003: A 20-year-old was forced back into her apartment at gunpoint in the 2200 block of 131st Ave.

March 4, 2003: A 15-year-old was abducted as she walked to her bus stop and was taken to a vacant apartment in the 12700 block of N 17th St.

March 20, 2003: A 22-year-old returning home after taking her child to school was approached by a man near 19th Street and 131st Avenue. Only this victim got away.

April 8, 2003: A 16-year-old was confronted at gunpoint while walking and forced into woods in the 1700 block of E Fowler Avenue.

Nov. 23, 2004: A 16-year-old was approached while walking and forced at gunpoint to the deck of a vacant apartment near 13000 Firth Court.

DNA database links federal prisoner to Hillsborough rapes 05/13/11 [Last modified: Friday, May 13, 2011 9:47pm]
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