TAMPA — George Shrader had killed his uncle in a bar fight and was about to be sentenced for second-degree murder.
But he had a few hours of freedom left.
Deputies say the night before his sentencing, Shrader, who was out on bond, raped and murdered 23-year-old Sharon Lorraine Moss in southern Hillsborough.
Officials found Moss' body the next morning, Jan. 27, 1986. She had been stabbed several times and wore only a T-shirt.
Two hours after the gruesome discovery, Shrader, then 19, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his uncle's murder. He served only 41/2 years.
Meanwhile, Moss' death went unsolved for 25 years — until authorities arrested Shrader in November for battering his wife.
Jail officials processed his DNA during booking and sent the information to a national database used by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Amid millions of DNA profiles, Shrader's was a match for the samples of blood and semen found where Moss was killed.
On Thursday, deputies arrested Shrader, 44, on charges of first-degree murder and sexual battery.
• • •
Circuit Judge Manuel Menendez presided over Shrader's murder trial 25 years ago. He said Friday he doesn't remember why he allowed Shrader to stay out on bond after his conviction. He said he doesn't remember the case.
But after pulling up sheriff's reports and court transcripts, the chief judge said it appeared to be an instance in which a young man got into a fight with his uncle outside a bar. The uncle pulled a knife, and Shrader used his fists.
Shrader left his uncle unconscious by a garbage bin, where he was found dead, the records state. It didn't seem intentional, Menendez said.
Shrader showed up for every court proceeding while out on bond. So after conviction, transcripts state, then-public Defender Mark Albrechta requested the judge continue bond.
"His family is here in the area, and the holidays are coming up," Albrechta said that December day.
Prosecutor Susan Sexton, now a circuit judge, asked Menendez to send Shrader to jail, but said she'd leave the decision to the judge.
He chose bond.
Looking back, Menendez says if the latest allegations are true, it's a tragedy. But there were no red flags then, he said.
Shrader had only been arrested for juvenile theft charges previously and had cooperated in court.
"As a judge,'' Menendez said, "you look at all of the facts and circumstances that are presented at the time."
• • •
After authorities matched Shrader's DNA in December, investigators questioned his brother, David Bailey, and former girlfriend, Terri Allbritton.
Though it was a quarter-century ago, they remembered the night of Jan. 26, 1986. Shrader had showed up at their apartment with cuts on two fingers of his right hand, they said, according to an arrest affidavit.
Shrader denied knowing Moss or visiting the rural spot where her body was found. He told authorities he cut his hand while doing the dishes at his brother's apartment, the affidavit states.
Bailey and Allbritton told authorities that wasn't true.
Deputies asked Shrader how his physical evidence ended up on Moss' body. He said he might have had sex with her but didn't remember, deputies said.
On Thursday, investigators showed Shrader a picture of Moss at the crime scene, a sandy road in an area commonly known as Whiskey Stump.
"I didn't do that," he said, according to the affidavit.
Moss was an apparent drifter, a woman who had been arrested for prostitution and had no known address, job or next of kin, according to deputies. After the murder, it took investigators six months to identify her.
She was a Michigan native who spent a lot of time in Colorado. It's not clear why she was in Hillsborough. Deputies said the motive for her death is unknown.
On Friday, Shrader remained in jail. A judge denied him bond.
Times staff writer Dan Sullivan and news researcher John Martin and information from the Miami Herald contributed to this report. Ileana Morales can be reached at email@example.com or (813)226-3386.