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Tipsters get $1,000 reward in rape case

Two witnesses share $1,000 after information they give to detectives leads to the arrest of a man in the Oct. 6 Carrollwood Village rape.

We've all seen the Crime Stopper ads that offer cash for information that could crack an unsolved case.

Along with a description or re-enactment of the crime, the ads offer a phone number and this caveat: Callers need not reveal their identity.

What we rarely find out though, is if anyone ever collects the reward.

Two people in Carrollwood Village did recently split a $1,000 reward for information they gave sheriff's detectives that helped nab a suspect in the rape of a Carrollwood Village jogger in October.

But in this instance, the money was not offered through Crime Stoppers. Instead, it was a joint effort by the three homeowner's associations in Carrollwood Village to support the rape victim and unite the community against more crime.

"A suggestion was made by one board member to offer a reward and the three boards decided it was a worthwhile cause and they all decided to contribute," said property manager Dan Ruskiewicz.

Both of the recipients asked that their identities remain anonymous. Each has received $500 from the Carrollwood Village homeowner's associations.

At the time of the rape, one of the recipients was an employee at the Texaco station at Ehrlich Road and West Village Drive. The other was a customer who happened to be at the gas station while the suspect was there trying to use an automated teller machine.

Detectives say minutes before kidnapping and sexually assaulting the woman, 30-year-old Richard Fernando Rivera stopped at the automated teller machine at the Texaco. That act, caught on videotape, helped lead deputies to Rivera.

Rivera, who has no criminal record, faces charges of armed sexual battery, armed robbery and armed kidnapping and burglary in connection with the Oct. 6 incident. He remains at the Hillsborough County Jail. He is scheduled for a pretrial hearing Feb. 18.

"The Sheriff's Office told me that both people were very instrumental in the arrest of this individual, therefore the board decided the best thing to do would be to split the reward between them," Ruskiewicz said.

The rape victim, who also was not identified, told deputies she was jogging along the sidewalk of the 5300 block of W Village Drive shortly after 5:30 a.m. when she was approached from behind by a man who put a sharp object to her throat.

The suspect then dragged the woman onto a soccer field on Ben Hill Middle School property where he sexually assaulted her.

The man then forced the victim to drive him in his car to her home, where he stole an unknown amount of money.

Tim Grant can be reached at (813) 226-3471 or grantsptimes.com.

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