Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Public safety

Dunedin man charged with capital sexual battery on four young girls

DUNEDIN — Pinellas County sheriff's deputies are worried that a Dunedin man accused of sexually battering four girls under his care, including one as young as age 6, might have more victims.

Darrell Lawson, 39, was arrested at his 480 Lexington St. home Monday evening and taken to the Pinellas County Jail, where he was booked on six counts of capital sexual battery on a child under 12.

Bail was set at $900,000, or $150,000 per count.

The arrest was the result of a month-and-a-half-long investigation, which revealed that Lawson's alleged infatuation with children stretches back as far as the 1990s, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Detectives say the case came to light in August after two of the victims, now ages 11 and 12, told a relative that Lawson had sexually battered them from ages 6 to 9.

The girls told detectives Lawson touched them, had sexual intercourse with them or had them perform oral sex on him on numerous occasions when they spent the night, an arrest warrant shows.

While investigating, detectives discovered two more victims. Authorities say Lawson had sex with one between 1995 and 1996, when she was 10. He had sex with the other from 2004, when she was 11, until 2007, when she was 14, they said.

According to the affidavit, the victim from the 1990s had reported the abuse at the time but was coerced into recanting. It was unclear who asked her to change her story.

The warrant said that the young woman also reported witnessing Lawson having sex with another young girl. That fourth victim confirmed the allegations during a police interview, documents say.

One of the four victims is mentally disabled, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Lawson — who authorities say has a long history of mental illness, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder — ran when confronted by police last month. He was arrested Monday at his Dunedin home without incident.

Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Eugene Paniccia of the Crimes Against Children Unit at (727) 582-6200.

Keyonna Summers can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or [email protected]

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Published: 02/20/18