TAMPA — Leonard Edwards, who spent almost a half-century in state prison for a hammer attack and rape before his release last summer, is accused of a new violent crime.
Edwards, 63, was working early Sunday morning on a cleanup crew at the Amalie Arena when he attacked a co-worker, kicking and stomping her head, according to Tampa police.
The woman was not identified in police records. But Aimee Morris, 41, told the Tampa Bay Times she was the victim of the beating. Photos posted to Facebook show her with a neck brace and a bloodied lip. She said she suffered brain bleeding and received staples for a severe head wound.
"I don't know if something was going on in his life that week or that day," Morris said. "I think he needs help and maybe it's not in the prison system. There's obviously something not right with him."
No one could say whether Edwards may have had a hard time adjusting to life after prison. A phone message left with his sister was not returned. The defense attorney who represented him at his resentencing hearing also did not respond to a message left for comment.
In July, Edwards was released as a result of U.S. and Florida Supreme Court decisions that found it unconstitutional for juveniles to receive lengthy prison terms without a chance of release. In prison since 1972, Edwards became one of the longest continuously incarcerated people in Florida to be released under the ruling.
That summer, Edwards broke into an apartment on S Albany Avenue in Tampa’s Hyde Park neighborhood, approached a sleeping 22-year-old woman and beat her about the head with a hammer. As she lay bleeding, he raped her. Edwards was linked to the crime through a hand-print, which was found on a windowsill inside the apartment, and through a jailhouse confession. He was given a life sentence.
Since his release, he has lived with his sister in Tampa, according to records. Due to the nature of his criminal conviction, he is a registered sex offender. His jail booking sheet indicates he was employed with Inspired Staffing Solutions as a day laborer.
Morris said she was a cleaning crew leader for the same company. Early Sunday, they were assigned to clean the Amalie Arena in downtown Tampa. Morris, whose job involved inspecting the work of her fellow crew members, noticed trash on the floor in the area Edwards had been assigned to clean. She said he became upset when she told him to do a better job.
"He told me he was tired of me picking on him," Morris said. She said she tried to explain that she was checking the work of everyone, not just him. She said he responded with an expletive, and told her to do the work herself.
"He basically told me, if I got him fired, I would see what would happen to me," Morris said.
A supervisor spoke with Edwards. Morris said he was told to go home for the day.
The last thing she remembers was Edwards walking past, looking at her.
Police records state that he punched her, knocking her to the ground. He then began "bashing" and "stomping" her face and head. Morris said the arena's security personnel intervened.
She was so disoriented she was unable to tell police who attacked her. She spent the next few days in a hospital with injuries that included a brain bleed, she said.
Police later arrested Edwards at home. He faces a charge of aggravated battery with great bodily harm. Bail was initially set at $100,000, but a probation violation charge soon followed, meaning Edwards will remain jailed without bail.
Morris said she knew nothing of Edwards' background. She described him as "a quiet guy" and said he had worked for the company longer than she had.
"It was understandable why they released him, to a certain extent," she said. Nevertheless, "I don't think they should have let him out. ... It's scary to think about what he could have done to me if no one was around."
At Edwards' resentencing hearing in July, attorneys for the state and defense agreed to a sentence of time he already had served in the hammer attack and rape, but sparred over whether he should be subject to supervision. The prosecutor wanted sex offender probation. The defense attorney argued that Edwards had "paid his debt to society" and that excessive restrictions would set him up for failure.
A judge, noting the need to protect the public, imposed a 10-year probation sentence with the condition that Edwards attend sex offender treatment classes.
Contact Dan Sullivan at [email protected] or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.