Thursday, April 26, 2018
Public safety

Man accused of trying to kill victim before Tampa rape trial

TAMPA — A man accused of raping a 70-year-old woman in a church sanctuary now faces a charge that he tried to hire a hit man to kill her and her daughter before the trial, authorities said.

Demetreius M. Morris, 27, was already in the Orient Road Jail when he sent notes earlier this month to someone saying he wanted to put out a hit on the women before he faced a May 8 court date, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. The person he is accused of sending the notes to was not identified by the Sheriff's Office.

Morris was arrested by Tampa police in October after a DNA sample linked him to a rape earlier that month.

A 70-year-old woman had been attacked as she gave a man a tour of the sanctuary of Living Word Fellowship, 8215 N 13th St.

A DNA sample from Morris was already held in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement database because he had been arrested before, in 2002, and charged with a lewd and lascivious act on a child, records show.

That sample linked him to the church rape, and he was arrested on counts of sexual battery, kidnapping, lewd and lascivious battery on an elderly person and lewd and lascivious molestation of an elderly person.

While he was being held on those charges without bail, the Sheriff's Office said, Morris "corresponded via hand-written notes to the listed witness expressing his desire to have a 'hit' placed on the victim and the victim's daughter."

The notes were written between April 12 and Sunday, and said Morris wanted the women killed before May 8, the Sheriff's Office said. "The defendant advised he would pay for the 'hit' with Social Security money he is scheduled to be paid," the agency said.

Records show Morris has pleaded not guilty to the rape charges and was scheduled to go to trial May 8 before Hillsborough Circuit Judge Chet Tharpe.

He now faces an additional charge of solicitation to commit murder, a first-degree felony.

He remained in jail Thursday without bail.

Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

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