14-year-old arrested in sexual battery of 91-year-old Reddick woman, sheriff says

Authorities in Marion County have made an arrest in a home intrusion and rape investigation in which a 91-year-old Reddick woman was awakened from her sleep and assaulted, detectives said.

Forensic investigators with the Marion County Sheriff's Office positively identified the suspect as a 14-year-old boy.

Deputies said that early Sunday, June 9, the victim was awakened around midnight to find an intruder in her home. The woman was beaten and sexually battered by the suspect, investigators said.

"It’s everyone's worst nightmare that somebody breaks into your house and you're attacked," said Lt. Paul Bloom with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. "I think that's  something that will linger, certainly with our victim, but also the residents in that, in that community that this could happen."

Investigators were able to track down a suspect through DNA evidence. Because this evidence often takes a while to process — it usually has to be sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s laboratory in Tallahassee — the Marion County Sheriff’s Office has its own crime lab. So the detectives started asking for buccal swabs from anyone who had been at the house recently.

According to investigators, the victim mentioned that the day before the attack, the suspect had stopped by to chat, as he often had in the past.

"She had no reason to suspect that this was going to be her attacker," said Lt. Bloom.

The arrest report says the teen actually came up to investigators while they were in the neighborhood. He told them a neighbor had a video that showed someone running toward the victim’s house the night of the attack, the sheriff's office said.

FOX 35 talked with that neighbor, who asked not to be identified.

"I’m happy that he was caught, but I’m sad that it was the person it was, because we had no idea," he told us.

He knew the victim, the accused attacker, and the accused attacker’s guardian. He says he never would have seen this coming.

"What makes a 14-year-old kid do something like that?" he asked. "There’s got to be more to the story."

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During an interview with detectives, the sheriff's office said the teenager admitted to unlawfully entering the victim’s home.

"I told everyone last week that we would find the person responsible, and we have," Sheriff Billy Woods said. "I’m very proud of the hard work that my detectives and forensics team have done on this case to bring about a quick closure."

Sheriff Woods described the incident as an act of "unimaginable violence."

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"It came as a shock that any individual would commit such an act on a 91-year-old, but it is truly disturbing when we see the young age of the arrestee," the sheriff added. "Although I firmly believe he should be held accountable for his crime, as a father, my compassion goes out to his family. Hopefully, his arrest will lead to getting him help that prevents any further such acts."

Sheriff Woods said the people of Reddick had shown "resilience and support for us and their community" throughout the investigation.

A reward was offered for information leading to an arrest in the case. However, the sheriff's office did not offer any additional details.

The teen has been taken into custody and delivered to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.