State and local investigators used familial DNA to connect a Tennessee man to a 31-year-old Pinellas County rape.
According to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Larry Eugene Gould, 54, sexually battered a woman at knifepoint on Sept. 24, 1988, in the back of a gift shop. Investigators with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s genetic genealogy team helped track him down using DNA from a direct male relative.
This is the second Pinellas rape in month that authorities have solved using familial DNA. The first break came last month, when investigators linked a Michigan man to two 20-year-old rapes in Indian Rocks Beach and Venice.
In those cases, investigators used a database that compiles genealogy data from at-home DNA testing companies such as 23andMe and Ancestry.com, a tactic that gained widespread notoriety for its use in catching the infamous Golden State Killer in California.
This case drew on a state criminal justice DNA database, a Sheriff’s Office spokesman said. Gould’s male relative is a convicted felon in Florida.
A Sheriff’s Office news release laid out these details of the 1988 incident:
About 1:50 p.m., a man in his mid-20s entered the Carrie Hawkins Distinctive Gifts shop at 5539 Park Street N and asked the victim, a store employee working alone, for help. During the conversation, the man pulled out a knife and ordered her to a room at the back of the store. He raped her, then ran away.
Pinellas deputies responded and conducted a sexual assault victim examination on the woman, who is now 82.
Later, in 1996, authorities developed a DNA profile of the man and entered the information into local, state and national databases. That turned up no matches and eliminated some suspects.
The Sheriff’s Office cold case unit began reviewing the case in February 2017. There was still no match in the DNA databases, and detectives eliminated more suspects.
In February, the state’s genetic genealogy team took on the case. Seven months later, in September, the team found a familial match in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s criminal DNA database. Pinellas detectives used it to develop Gould as a suspect. Gould was 23 and lived in Pinellas County at the time of the rape.
Detectives reached out to police and prosecutors in Gallatin, Tenn., where Gould was living. They got a search warrant to collect a DNA sample from Gould.
On Jan. 7, Pinellas detectives got word it was a match.
Pinellas detectives interviewed Gould in Tennessee. He didn’t dispute the DNA match, according to the Sheriff’s Office, but he said he didn’t rape anyone. He had consensual sex with people in their businesses, he said, according to deputies.
Gould was booked into a Tennessee jail on a charge of armed sexual battery. He will be extradited to Pinellas County.