ST. PETERSBURG — Ellie L. Mason had been dead for days before a real estate agent found her body inside a vacant home in January 2011.
The one-story home, flanked by Interstate 275 and hidden from street view by another house, was in foreclosure. Neighbors said homeless people sometimes slept inside.
Mason, discovered inside, had been beaten with a brick.
Police never named any suspects in the case, but said someone killed Mason, a 45-year-old with a history of arrests for prostitution and drugs.
On Tuesday, police arrested Terry Allen Jr., 31, on a first-degree murder charge — the same day he was acquitted of kidnapping and raping other prostitutes.
Authorities said Allen beat Mason as he was raping her.
"He admitted he had met her at the house and had sex but denied killing her," police spokesman Mike Puetz said. "That flew in the face of the DNA evidence."
Allen was in the Pinellas County Jail without bail Wednesday. He's been there for nearly two years.
In April 2011, just months after Mason's body was discovered, police arrested Allen and accused him of trying to rape a prostitute. After she escaped, police said he raped another prostitute that same day.
Allen was riding a bike when he approached a 30-year-old prostitute at First Avenue N and 35th Street around 3 a.m. April 8 and offered $20 for sex, police said. Allen and the woman went to a vacant house at 3460 Fourth Ave. S, but the prostitute got scared.
Police said Allen choked the woman, forced her inside, then grabbed her when she ran for the door. The prostitute ended up throwing herself through a glass window, running to 34th Street and flagging down a police officer.
About an hour later, police said, Allen approached a 37-year-old prostitute on 34th Street near 13th Avenue N. He attacked the woman after she rebuffed him, police said, then raped and choked her.
A Pinellas County jury, however, found Allen not guilty of those charges on Tuesday. Prosecutors said they had issues locating a witness during the trial.
Authorities, who'd been prepared to go forward with the murder case either way, said the fact Allen was likely to be released from jail led them to file the most recent charges.
Mason's family could not be reached for comment.
Times researcher Caryn Baird and staff writer Curtis Krueger contributed to this report. Kameel Stanley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8643.