PINELLAS COUNTY - Dustin Kennedy, 28, has been arrested and charged in the sexual assault of a teenage girl back on the morning of December 18.
Pinellas County deputies say Kennedy, who is an inmate at the Largo Residential Re-entry Center, was linked to the crime via DNA.
He is the second inmate at that facility linked to a violent crime in the past three months. The re-entry center is a halfway house that allows convicted criminals who are deemed "low risk" to go out to work on a daily basis.
According to deputies, Kennedy dragged the teen into bushes near the intersection of Whitney Road and Whitney Drive in unincorporated Clearwater. The teen was walking to her school bus stop.
Kennedy, deputies say, choked the teen until she was unconscious and then sexually battered her. The teen regained consciousness and was able make it back to her home. Her parents called police and she was treated at a local hospital.
Kennedy, who was under the supervision of the Department of Corrections, was previously convicted of burglary and grand theft in Hillsborough County. He is now facing sexual battery, felony attempted murder, strong armed robbery and kidnapping charges.
Deputies told ABC Action News when confronted with the DNA evidence Kennedy confessed. Two cell phones belonging to the teenage victim were also found on Kennedy when he was searched, deputies said.
The halfway house, which is located on U.S. 19, is operated by Goodwill.
Back on September 30, St. Petersburg police said Michael Scott Norris, 36, left the facility to go to work but never returned. He was later listed as an escapee.
Norris was arrested on October 4 and charged with murdering two men at a Fourth Avenue North home during a botched robbery attempt. Police said Norris shot and killed the men with a gun he stole and later torched the house to cover up his crime.
A spokesperson for the halfway house was not able to be reached Wednesday night. However, back in October when Norris was arrested, MichaelAnne Harvey, a Goodwill spokesperson, said she was both "shocked and saddened" by what happened.