Saturday, October 17, 2009

Attacker of woman sentenced to life without parole

A guy who kidnapped and raped his "girlfriend" before she escaped was sentenced to life without parole Friday for sexual battery with a deadly weapon, witness tampering, and kidnapping. Arthur Jones III, 28, was sentenced to mandatory life without parole as a prison release reoffender by Pinellas County Circuit Judge Michael Andrews yesterday. Prison release reoffenders are criminals who have comitted certain crimes within 3 years of prison release.

The charges stem from an attack which began around 4 AM on August 26, 2007 in Tarpon Springs. Jones threw a propane tank through the victim, his "girlfriend's" plate glass window, shattering it. Jones then kidnapped the victim, and tried to rape her in a black SUV in Pasco County on a deserted roadway. After he checked into a Port Richey hotel, he finally suceeded in violating the victim.

After the rape, Jones drove the victim back to her home, where she bailed out. Jones tried to run her over twice, once in her driveway. During the ordeal, Jones had a gun.

As Tarpon Springs police officers arrived on the scene, Jones took off. Police said he tried to hit an officer in a squad car and then swerved at another officer who had ordered him to halt. As it headed east on Keystone Drive, the SUV inexplicably caught fire.

Jones leapt out as it crashed into an embankment, then ran away. Police dogs tracked him to the edge of a lake north of Keystone and east of Highland Avenue, but he was not found. Authorities located him two months later in Suwannee County.

Stanton presented DNA evidence from the rape during the trial, and the woman, 33, testified about her ordeal.

Amazingly, just before sentencing, Jones told his victim that he cared about her. He also tried to excuse his conduct. "I'm not necessarily a bad person. I've made some bad choices in my life. I've learned a lot."

Jones has other criminal charges pending in both Pinellas and Pasco counties, but any conviction won't increase his sentence - in Florida, life sentences are life without parole in all cases.

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