TAMPA — Matches from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement DNA database helped identify nearly 300 suspects in unsolved crimes in November — a high mark for the program begun in 1989.
The upswing comes at the end of a fruitful year that averaged 287 matches a month, said agency spokeswoman Heather Smith.
Two of the matches this year have identified felons as possible perpetrators of Tampa rapes from years ago, police said.
More than 700,000 DNA samples are in the database — some belonging to felons, others from crime scenes of unsolved cases.
On Tuesday, Tampa police served a warrant for Quinton Russell, 27, of Tampa, who already was in the Hillsborough County Jail after being charged with robbery in June.
A DNA sample taken from him was found to match that of the attacker who pulled a young woman into the bushes on the 7000 block of N Central Avenue on Aug. 20, 2002, stole her jewelry and raped her, police said.
Russell was charged with rape, kidnapping and robbery in that case from eight years ago.
He was recently sentenced to state prison on earlier robbery, battery and theft charges.
When collection of DNA samples from convicted felons began in 1989, Smith said, it started with the most violent offenders. It wasn't until 2007 that the process made its way to drug offenders and some other nonviolent criminals, she said.
This summer, police served an arrest warrant on Gregory Bernard Williams Jr., 25, of Tampa, in the Liberty Correctional Institution, where he was serving a sentence for violating probation.
His DNA was a match for a man who came into a Tampa woman's home in March 2001 and raped her, according to arrest reports.
Police said the suspect came in through a door left unlocked for the woman's young daughter playing outside. He was armed with a gun and a knife.
Police said Williams raped her before shoving her into a living room closet and pushing a couch against the door.
The DNA match came back from the database earlier this year, said Andrea Davis, a Tampa police spokeswoman. "We used that to get a search warrant to conduct a second test," she said.
Williams was charged in that case with burglary of an occupied dwelling, sexual battery and kidnapping on July 14.
Over the next 10 years, the FDLE will begin implementing a 2009 law change that allows a DNA sample to be taken upon arrest for felony offenses, some misdemeanor offenses and offenses committed to benefit a criminal gang, Smith said.