NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County deputies have a name, an age and a confession from a man who they say exposed himself on a public transit bus on Feb. 20.
But at this point, they don't have him in custody.
On Thursday, the suspect was spotted by a Bob Evans employee in a Winn-Dixie parking lot. The employee recognized the man, known only as Jerry to the staff at the Bob Evans in Holiday, because servers had seen him fondling himself at the restaurant's counter two years ago, said manager Rick Hungerford. Jerry isn't allowed in the restaurant anymore.
Deputies found the man and brought him in for questioning, during which he confessed to masturbating in front of a woman on a Pasco County Public Transit bus, Sheriff Chris Nocco said.
That incident had been captured on a bus security camera, and the victim had notified the driver, but the woman had not contacted deputies to file a complaint. And without a victim, deputies couldn't make an arrest, so earlier this week they held a news conference.
On Friday morning, a couple of days after the news conference, the woman contacted deputies and filed a complaint. And deputies started looking for the man, this time to make an arrest.
"Now, the state attorney will be putting charges on this suspect, and we'll be able to move forward with the prosecution," Nocco said.
Nocco also said investigators believe that the suspect, whom they are not naming until an arrest is made, is one of at least two men responsible for a number of exposures on the west side of the county in recent weeks.
Following the Feb. 20 case, a man was removed from a RaceTrac gas station after he was caught masturbating in the store. A man exposed himself to a 17-year-old girl in the Regency Park Library on Feb. 27. On March 9, a man was caught masturbating outside the window of a woman's Embassy Hills home. Five days later, a man exposed himself to a clerk at the Dollar General store on U.S. 19 and Fox Hollow Drive.
Deputies originally believed that one man was involved in all of those incidents. But the suspect that deputies talked to on Thursday confessed only to the incident on the bus, Nocco said.
Nocco encouraged any other victims to call deputies.
"It's absolutely courageous for the victim to come forward," he said. "We know that it's very tough, but they might be able to protect someone else."
Contact Alex Orlando at [email protected] or (727) 869-6247.