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Hillsborough Sheriff announces arrest of suspect in sexual battery investigation

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Posted at 11:04 AM, Dec 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-10 17:11:17-05

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister on Friday announced the arrest of a man they say sexually assaulted an elderly woman in North Tampa last month.

Chronister said Ron Smith, 42, was arrested Thursday.

The Sheriff's Office says on the morning of November 27, a suspect approached a woman in her 70s near the intersection of N Central Avenue and Celestial Oaks Drive in the Lake Magdalene area. While she was out on her morning walk, they say the suspect asked her for money and cigarettes, but that she told him she had neither and kept walking.

The Sheriff's Office explains the suspect, who followed the victim, later reappeared, forced her to the ground covering her nose and mouth, while telling her he had a knife.

The Sheriff's Office says the victim reported the sexual assault the same day and that the suspect's DNA was submitted to the FDLE.

“He’s no stranger to violence," said Chronister. "He has a criminal history of violence in the state of Texas and in the state of Pennsylvania. That is where a sample of his DNA was collected, and we were able to make that comparison and identify him as a suspect in this case.”

Chronister said the case was a priority as authorities were concerned this may be a serial rapist. The Sheriff said the FDLE processed the DNA sample from the scene and returned it within days.

"Our crime scene investigators, our detectives have shown that this is a textbook case where science, technology, and good old-fashioned police work led us to identify him and led us here today," Chronister said on Friday.

He added that Smith has no ties to Florida and was released from Pennsylvania state prison on June 25.

According to the Sheriff's Office, a search of Ron Smith's criminal history revealed that he is known to use several aliases, including "Stephen D Smith," explaining that further investigation revealed that a "Stephen D Smith" had been arrested on December 2 by the Tampa Police Department after robbing a woman of her purse and cellphone at Julian B Lane park. The Sheriff's Office says Smith was located and arrested the same day on Willow Avenue in Tampa and released from jail on a surety bond on December 5. The Sheriff's Office says a comparison of Ron Smith and Stephen D Smith helped detectives determine that they are the same person.

Smith faces charges of armed false imprisonment, robbery with a deadly weapon, and two counts of sexual battery with a deadly weapon.