Suspect Arrested in Marion County Serial Rape Case Says Police Have Wrong Man

A 37-year-old Ocala, Florida man that was taken into custody Thursday morning in connection with a series of recent sexual assaults in Marion County said his arrest is a case of mistaken identity.

He was arrested around 3 a.m. and charged with sexual battery and kidnapping. The man is accused of committing several violent sexual assaults starting in early July and continuing through Oct. 12.

On Wednesday, two victims supposedly identified the man as their attacker from a picture in a photo array provided by Marion County police.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, at least two of the victims claim their attacker tied their hands together before sexually assaulting them. They supposedly told police their attacker had a tattoo on his neck and a tattoo resembling a military-style or “patriotic-type” design on his left forearm and that he drove a dark-colored van. One victim supposedly told police she cut her attacker somewhere on his body.

The man arrested has a tattoo on his neck and a tattoo of an American flag with barbed wire on his left forearm. The man allegedly said he had a cut on his head as a result of an injury from working on his vehicle.

Police questioned the man about his whereabouts on the dates the alleged rapes were committed. The man supposedly told investigators he borrowed his wife’s parents 1994 green Plymouth van on Oct. 12. According to police, the van matches the body type of the van described by the victims.

The man requested an attorney and the questioning supposedly ceased.

The man allegedly told reporters he did not rape the five women and was only arrested because his tattoos appear to be similar to those the victims described. He added that he is willing to have his DNA tested.

The man will appear for the first time before a judge on Friday.

According to the Innocence Project, mistaken identifications are the top cause of wrongful convictions in the United States. More than 75 percent of the 273 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the U.S. involved some form of eyewitness error. Research shows that a person’s memory is malleable and full of gaps, which can leave the way a person remembers something contaminated and completely vulnerable to suggestion. While improper police tactics can be leading or “suggestive,” sometimes cases of misidentification can be blamed on an honest mistake.

Misidentification can happen through several police procedures, including:

  • Showups- This is when a witness is shown one person, often close to the crime scene.
  • Photo Arrays- This is when a witness is shown several photos, often called a “six-pack.”
  • Lineups- This entails a witness viewing a group of individuals.
  • Voice Lineups- When a witness listens to different voices as a method to identify an assailant.
  • In-Court Identifications- When a witness is asked to point out an alleged perpetrator in court.

Mistaken identification is made worse throughout an investigation and trial because there tends to be a ripple effect. The pattern shows that if a witness misidentifies someone early on in the process, like in this case a photo array, that witness can clasp on to this new memory and continuously point out the wrong person, even at trial.

Merely being accused of committing a sexual assault, or in this case several, can plague a person for the rest of their life. If you or a loved one is suspected of committing sexual assault or battery, the best investment for your future is to hire an experienced Florida Sex Crimes Defense Attorney. At Whittel & Melton, our top priority is protecting your Constitutional rights while forcing state prosecutors to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt and not simply relying on circumstantial evidence.

If you or someone you care for has been arrested for a sex crime because of mistaken identification anywhere in the state of Florida, contact the Florida Sex Crimes Criminal Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton, LLC online or call our Marion County Office in Ocala at 352-369-5334 or reach us statewide and toll-free at 866-608-5529.

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