Wednesday’s crime report: Discarded cigarette leads to the identification of 1998 sexual assault suspect.

Published: December, 15 2020 Written by: Robbie Raptor.

On Wednesday December 9, 2020 James Byrd, 60 was arrested in Marion County, Florida after investigators followed him to a doctors office, and collected a DNA sample from a cigarette Byrd had discarded on the ground.

James Byrd, 60, was arrested at his Marion County home on Wednesday on charges of sexual battery and armed kidnapping, according to Tampa police. He was linked to the 1998 attack on a 22-year-old woman in 1998. [ Marion County Sheriff’s Office ]

His DNA was matched to a sample from a 22-year-old armed kidnapping, and sexual battery investigation. According to Tampa bay Times, on March 8, 1998 Byrd had offered to give a ride to an unknown woman, the woman had been walking near Columbus drive, and Interstate 4 when she agreed to get inside of James’s “small blue pick up”.

The two then drove to an area of East Washington street, and South 50th street, where U.S. 41 now meets the Selmon Expressway. At this location Byrd proceeded to pull out a 6-inch knife and threatened the woman at knife-point. After sexually assaulting the woman he then drove off leaving her there. The woman managed to to walk to a gas station where she called the police, after a sexual assault exam was performed to document the attack, DNA evidence was obtained however no arrest was ever made.

The DNA evidence that was collected that day was submitted to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for testing in 2015. It turned out to be a match with DNA samples that were collected from two other assaults that had been investigated by the Hillsborough County Sheriffs office in 1999. At the time however there still wasn’t any evidence that could lead to an identification of the suspect.

photo of Hillsborough County sheriffs patch (Wikipedia.com)

State forensic scientist continued to try and find another match to the DNA found in the 1998 investigation, with little success. On September 25, 2020 investigators received a lab report stating that the DNA evidence from the 1998 investigation was possibly linked to James Byrd. After taking a closer look into Byrd’s life Detectives learned that Byrd used to be a resident in the area where three separate sexual assaults had taken place. Investigators also learned that James had matched the description given by the three victims.

When investigators began surveilling James they followed him to a doctors office where he discarded a lit cigarette outside. Once investigators Obtained the discarded cigarette butt they immediately submitted it as evidence, sending it off to a lab for testing, the DNA from the cigarette was reported as a match to the DNA sample that was collected in the 1998 assault. On December 1, 2020 investigators obtained, and carried out a warrant to take another DNA sample from Byrd.

When questioned about the assault Byrd stated that he was married at the time, and had no sex outside of his marriage. When shown a photo of the victim, Byrd said he had never seen the woman before. On December 4, 2020 the DNA sample taken from James was confirmed to match the sample from the 1998 assault. James Byrd will be returned to Hillsborough County, where he will stand trial for the 1998 sexual assault case.

No other information has been made public about the other two cases that matched Byrd’s DNA, be sure to check back every week for any updates that may have occurred.

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