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St. Petersburg police accuse ex-con house sitter of burglary, rape

ST. PETERSBURG — He was supposed to be taking care of the property, but instead police said Gregory James Strickland invited a friend to stay there, raped her and stole the owner's car.

Strickland, 47, was arrested just after midnight Tuesday after Pinellas Park police recognized a stolen Infiniti near 56th Terrace N.

He remained in jail Wednesday on charges of car theft, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, armed burglary and sexual battery with a deadly weapon.

Strickland met the victim in prison, said police spokesman Mike Puetz. It was not immediately clear how they met.

The woman had nowhere to stay when she was released so Strickland offered her shelter at home he was caring for, Puetz said.

Owner Geeard Kosten, 67, was out of town and told police he granted Strickland access only to the garage so he could use tools to maintain the property.

At first, the woman told police she and Strickland had a platonic relationship the first few days at the residence. But then he began drinking heavily, police said, and the relationship turned violent.

He began to make demands for sex and physically assault her, Puetz said.

Eventually, police said he took a black .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun from the bookshelf, threatened the woman, tied her up and raped her.

She told police Strickland sexually assaulted her more than once, Puetz said.

According to an arrest affidavit, Strickland pointed the gun at the woman during the assault and said, "Imagine what this would do to you." Rope was found at the scene.

The woman called authorities after the assaults, when Strickland left her in the house and drove away in Kosten's car, police said. He was charged with stealing the car, a 1996 white Infiniti, and Kosten's gun.

The woman may have received internal injuries from the attacks, according to an arrest affidavit.

Strickland has an extensive history of arrests in Pinellas County, according to records.

Dating back to 2007, Strickland has been accused of theft, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, battery, disorderly intoxication and driving under the influence.

According to the affidavit, Strickland told his aunt he had been in an accident in the stolen car prior to his arrest. The front of the vehicle was damaged when officers found it.

St. Petersburg police accuse ex-con house sitter of burglary, rape 08/31/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 1:40pm]

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