Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

DNA sample in database points to serial rapist

ST. PETERSBURG — At first, Terrell Hughes' criminal conviction for stealing property from his employer seemed unremarkable.

He received probation, supplied a DNA sample to the state's database and went home.

That sample has now helped St. Petersburg police solve a nearly decade-old serial rape case, investigators say.

Police say Hughes, 45, raped five women between 1999 and 2001. Police arrested him at his home at 2107 1/2 Walton St. S on Wednesday night. He was charged in two sexual batteries based on the DNA evidence.

"We're just as shocked as everybody else," said Antonio Thompson, 24, Hughes' stepson who has known him more than a decade. He said Hughes was never violent with his mother. "I don't believe that he would do something like that."

Police began investigating after the first rape was reported Jan. 16, 1999. They saw a pattern that included four others and ended in 2001. The victims were prostitutes picked up along the 34th Street corridor.

The rapist took the women to industrial areas, including near 20th Avenue N and 26th Avenue N, beat them and dropped them off nearby. They described their attacker as clean-cut and well above 6 feet tall. Hughes is 6 feet 4.

Police aren't sure why the attacks stopped. Police spokesman Bill Proffitt said it's possible that other rapes weren't reported, but investigators don't suspect Hughes in any more open cases.

The break in the case came when Pinellas Park police arrested Hughes in October 2007. They said he stole computer monitors and air compressors from his employer, ASAP Home Oxygen, and pawned them. He pleaded no contest to dealing in stolen property in February, records show.

According to Florida law, felons must provide a DNA sample upon conviction to CODIS, a national database of genetic evidence. Florida authorities started adding samples to the database in 1990 from offenders convicted of sex crimes. In 2006, the Florida Legislature added dealing in stolen property, and last year it added all remaining felonies.

"It's huge," said Maj. Mike Puetz of the St. Petersburg police, whose agency has used the database to solve five sexual assault cases this year. "The likelihood of having closed these cases without this type of technology would be pretty remote."

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the database has helped investigators resolve more than 1,800 sexual assault cases since 1990.

The database grows as more people are convicted of felonies, increasing the chances that police will be able to solve cold cases in which DNA evidence was collected. Puetz said the system works because convicted criminals are likely to have committed other crimes.

Hughes had never been charged with a felony in Florida before his 2007 arrest. His Florida criminal history, which began in 2001, shows charges of marijuana possession and driving under the influence of alcohol. According to his arrest report, he worked at Carrabba's Italian Grill.

Hughes remained in jail Thursday night in lieu of $100,000 bail. Just before 8 p.m., paramedics with St. Petersburg Fire Rescue arrived at his house to attend to his wife, whom he married in 2001.

As rescue workers wheeled her into an ambulance on a stretcher, Karen Hughes was shaking.

Thompson, one of her three grown children, said his mother first heard about the serial rape case Wednesday night when her husband was arrested.

When asked why she was feeling ill, Thompson responded: How would you feel?

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Stephanie Garry can be reached at (727) 892-2374.

DNA sample in database points to serial rapist 08/14/08 [Last modified: Friday, August 15, 2008 1:54pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Allegiant flight makes emergency landing in California after smoke fills cabin

    Airlines

    FRESNO, Calif. — Smoke filled the cabin of an Allegiant Air jet after it landed at a California airport on Monday, forcing coughing passengers to cover their faces with shirts and firefighters to board the plane, authorities said.

    This frame from mobile phone video shows smoke inside an Allegiant Air jet after it landed at Fresno Yosemite International Airport in California's Central Valley, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. Smoke filled the cabin of an Allegiant Air jet after it landed at the airport on Monday, forcing coughing passengers to cover their faces with shirts and firefighters to board the plane, authorities said. Allegiant said no passengers or any of the six crew members were injured. [Estevan Moreno via AP]
  2. Forecast: Sunny skies, drier air dominate throughout Tampa Bay region

    Weather

    Drier air continues to filter into the Tampa Bay area on Tuesday, with clear skies and a slight chance of light rain during the afternoon.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]
  3. Florida education news: Makeup days, graduation honors, sex education and more

    Blogs

    MAKEUP DAYS: Hillsborough County schools will eliminate four early release days to meet minimum state time per course, after missing seven days because of Hurricane Irma. • Indian …

    School classrooms are back up and running after Hurricane Irma. Districts are now setting makeup schedules for time missed.
  4. Rick and Tom podcast: Bucs' Gerald McCoy frustrated with disrespectful fans

    Bucs

    Rick Stroud and Tom Jones discuss Gerald McCoy's latest comments on disrespectful fans who attack his teammates, Donald Trump, protests by DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans, and his respect for the …

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) warms up before an NFL game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn., on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017.
  5. Tampa heading into several tough budget years

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Less pain now, more pain later.

    The Tampa City Council will hold a final public hearing on the proposed 2018 city budget and property tax rate at 5 p.m. Thursday on the third floor of Old City Hall, 315 E Kennedy Blvd.