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DNA helps solve Tampa sexual battery during 2007 Gasparilla Parade, police say

A woman had reported that a man befriended her, helped her get home, then sexually battered her and fled.
Jared T. Vaughn, 44, turned himself in June 16 after his DNA matched DNA collected at the scene of a sexual battery in Tampa, police said.
Jared T. Vaughn, 44, turned himself in June 16 after his DNA matched DNA collected at the scene of a sexual battery in Tampa, police said. [ Tampa Police Department ]
Published Jun. 22
Updated Jun. 23

TAMPA — Authorities have arrested a man in connection with a 2007 sexual battery by using DNA and public genealogical databases to crack the case.

Jared T. Vaughn, 44, surrendered June 16 after his DNA matched DNA collected at the scene of the crime, Tampa police said at a news conference Tuesday.

This is the second criminal case Tampa police have solved using a genetic genealogy database.

In 2007, a 20-year-old woman was intoxicated at the Gasparilla Parade when an unknown man offered to walk her home, according to an affidavit. The man helped her back to her University of Tampa dorm and sexually battered her, the affidavit states.

The man fled the scene, police said. Detectives collected evidence at the time but didn’t immediately make an arrest.

New technology enabled them to push the investigation forward beginning last spring.

In April 2020, police submitted the DNA collected at the crime scene to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab. The agency conducted a search, checking whether the DNA matched anyone in its criminal database.

That initial search failed.

The state then turned over the evidence to contractor Parabon NanoLabs, which began a more exhaustive genetic search using public genetic genealogy databases — websites that use genetic profiles to connect relatives and map family trees. The company provided its findings to state and local police.

From there, investigators used “old-fashioned police work,” said Mark Brutnell, the state agency’s special agent in charge. Using interviews and analysis, detectives identified a potential match. They obtained a warrant in West Virginia and met Vaughn at his home, where they collected DNA.

The DNA matched, detectives said.

According to his jail booking, Vaughn now lives in Cutler, Ohio, near the West Virginia state line. He has worked as a truck driver for a tire company, according to jail records from a 2005 arrest in Tampa on a charge of driving under the influence.

He was released from the Hillsborough County Jail on June 16 after posting bail of $7,500.

“The victim now has closure,” assistant police chief Ruben Delgado said.