Thursday, November 23, 2017
Public safety

Lakewood High student sexually assaulted at gunpoint, St. Pete police say

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ST. PETERSBURG — A 16-year-old Lakewood High School student was kidnapped and sexually assaulted at gunpoint early Thursday morning while she was walking to school, according to St. Petersburg police.

Benjamin Devoe Mohead, 32, was arrested about an hour after the student's mother called police.

The student was alone when Mohead drove up and displayed what appeared to be a gun, police said. They said Mohead forced the frightened student into his car, drove her to the Lakewood golf course and sexually assaulted her.

"From as near as we can tell, this was a crime of opportunity," said police spokesman Mike Puetz.

It wasn't the first time Mohead was accused of aiming a gun at a stranger, then raping her.

Seven years ago, Mohead was charged with sexually assaulting a woman at the Crystal Inn at 4600 34th St. S. The woman was partying at the motel on Jan. 4, 2005, then approached a room seeking a ride. The man she was looking for wasn't there. But his cousin, Mohead, was.

He pulled out a gun and ordered her to undress, a police report said. Then he undressed.

"You made me do it," he told her, according to a police report.

Mohead then sexually assaulted the woman, according to the report, and warned her: "You better not say anything." But she reported the assault as soon as she was able to leave the room a few hours later.

Mohead pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of felony battery a year later. Pinellas-Pasco Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett said Thursday that the plea deal came about after witnesses provided conflicting accounts. Mohead was sentenced to a year in prison.

He was freed in 2006, then served another year in 2008 for forgery, records show. He was released in 2009, then arrested twice in 2011 for failure to pay child support and possession of cocaine, according to records.

Then came Thursday's incident. The student was walking to school in her Lakewood Estates neighborhood about 7 a.m. She was near Anastasia Way and Cumbia Way when a green sedan pulled up alongside her.

The driver demanded that she get in, police said. She had never seen him before. She refused. But police said the driver brandished what looked like a handgun. The teen was scared and got in.

The man drove a short distance to the golf course, police said, then stopped and sexually assaulted her. He also robbed her of some cash.

The teen screamed, police said, so the driver let her out at the intersection of Desoto Way and Cardinal Way S. He drove away — but not before she saw his tag number. She walked home and told her mother. They called police at 7:19 a.m.

Officers quickly zeroed in on the Mariner's Pointe Apartment complex at 1175 Pinellas Point Drive S. They found the car they believe was used in the assault, a dark green 1995 Buick LeSabre. Inside, police found a pellet gun.

The car belonged to a female resident, and police identified her boyfriend as their suspect: Mohead. Officers said the teen picked him out of a photo lineup.

Officers soon found Mohead walking nearby and arrested him. He was charged with two counts of armed sexual assault, one count of armed kidnapping and one count of armed robbery. He was being held Thursday without bail in the county jail.

Hours after the arrest, a message from Lakewood High principal Bob Vicari was sent out to the phones of students and their families.

"As our student was walking to school, she was abducted and sexually assaulted by an adult male …" Vicari said. "I am calling to notify you … and to ask that we work together with your Lakewood High student to make sure he or she is aware and takes all precautions possible when traveling to school."

Staff writer Curtis Krueger contributed to this report. Danny Valentine can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8804.

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