Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Public safety

New technology helps Pinellas Sheriff's Office solve 25-year-old case

TARPON SPRINGS — A woman who was sexually assaulted more than two decades ago may soon have justice after the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office used an updated fingerprint system to identify her attacker, deputies said.

Jeffrey W. Hogston, 49, of Palm Harbor was arrested this week for the 1992 cold case. He faces one count of sexual battery.

On Feb. 7, 1992, the 24-year-old woman — who investigators did not identify due to the nature of the crime — met a man who called himself "Tony" at JD Penguin Lounge on U.S. 19 in Clearwater.

When the lounge closed around 3 a.m., the man asked her for a ride to his hotel, a Quality Inn in Tarpon Springs, deputies said. He had her drive to the back of the building and park the car.

Then, he hit her, forced her into the backseat, and sexually battered her multiple times, deputies said.

He later made her drive to the intersection of U.S. 19 and Beckett Way, where he got out of the car and ran away, deputies said. The woman called authorities.

Investigators found the man's fingerprints on a business card that he had given the woman and on the car. They ran them through an automated fingerprint identification system, but at the time, the prints weren't identifiable.

The case sat cold for years.

Last year, the Sheriff's Office upgraded its fingerprinting with new "biometric software," which improved the system's algorithms, structure and accuracy. The old system made about 150 fingerprint matches a month, said Bill Schade, who heads the Sheriff's Office's fingerprint division. It now makes more than 230.

Investigators ran the fingerprints from the case through the new system and identified Hogston as the attacker, deputies said. They obtained a warrant for his arrest and took him into custody Thursday.

Hogston is being held at the Pinellas County jail on a $150,000 bail.

Contact Sara DiNatale at [email protected] or (813) 226-3400. Follow @sara_dinatale.

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