CLEARWATER — Detectives used DNA evidence to arrest a man Wednesday in connection with a December attack on a 17-year-old girl who was raped as she walked to her school bus stop.
Dustin M. Kennedy, 28, was taken into custody at the Goodwill Residential Re-entry Center at 16432 U.S. 19 N in Clearwater on Wednesday afternoon.
Pinellas sheriff's officials said Kennedy attacked the girl in the area of Whitney Road and Whitney Drive in unincorporated Clearwater on the morning of Dec. 18.
The attacker grabbed the girl from behind, choked her and dragged her to a nearby ditch. The girl lost consciousness and the attacker raped her, sheriff's officials said.
The attack prompted the Sheriff's Office to increase patrols in the area; some parents also elected to drive their children to their school bus stops afterward.
The Pinellas County Forensic Laboratory later matched a DNA sample recovered after the attack with that of Kennedy, whose DNA information was in a state database.
Kennedy was living at the re-entry facility, which has a contract with the Florida Department of Corrections. The facility is close to where the attack occurred.
Re-entry facilities are designed to help prison inmates become law-abiding members of society, according to the DOC's website.
In March, Kennedy was sentenced to 18 months in prison for burglary and grand theft out of Hillsborough County, state records show. He was scheduled to be released Feb. 13.
Kenney also was in prison from 2005 to 2007 on burglary and grand theft charges.
Detectives confronted Kennedy at the facility Wednesday and he admitted to the attack, sheriff's officials said.
Detectives also found that Kennedy had two cellphones that he had stolen from the girl during the attack, sheriff's officials said.
Kennedy was booked at the Pinellas County Jail on charges of sexual battery, attempted murder, strong-arm robbery and kidnapping.
He was being held without bail Wednesday night.