Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Public safety

After manhunt, Tampa police arrest fugitive sexual predator

TAMPA — A sexual predator who went on the run last month amid allegations that he harmed a young girl was captured early Monday in Lakeland.

Christopher Leon Jones, 37, was taken into custody about 4 a.m. at a home on Fairway Drive after police received an anonymous tip, authorities said.

Jones became the subject of a high-profile search on Christmas Eve when he cut off an electronic ankle monitor that he was required to wear as a condition of his sex offender probation, police said. He then vanished.

Tampa police issued several pleas for tips leading to his arrest. Clear Channel put up billboards with a photo of the wanted man. Officials offered a $5,000 reward, hoping the money might be an incentive for someone to give up Jones' hiding spot.

Police say the tipster saw Jones' picture on a billboard and called law enforcement.

The call led police and U.S. marshals, who are part of the Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force, to a duplex in Lakeland early Monday.

The group verified Jones was inside and surrounded the duplex.

Jones wouldn't come out and crawled through the attic to an adjacent unit, police said.

Task force members entered the duplex with the assistance of Polk County's SWAT deputies. They found Jones hiding under a sink, authorities said.

He was booked in jail before 6  a.m. Monday and held without bail on charges of sexual battery, lewd and lascivious molestation, and probation violation, according to jail records.

The same day that Jones disappeared, detectives were investigating allegations he had sexually battered a 12-year-old female relative on Dec. 23, police said.

Jones was released from prison in 2011 after serving about eight years for sexual battery, according to the Department of Corrections. The victim was a young family member, Tampa police said.

In August, Jones was convicted of a probation violation and sentenced to community control, court records show.

Staff writer Jessica Vander Velde contributed to this report.

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