Suspect charged in armed sexual battery and kidnapping cold case from more than 30 years ago

Posted at 4:41 PM, Jun 18, 2018

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Pinellas County detectives have identified a suspect in a sexual battery and kidnapping case from more than 30 years ago thanks to new fingerprint technology. 

Russell Lee Rogers, now 59, was arrested on Friday. He's facing two counts of armed sexual battery and one count of armed kidnapping.

On February 16, 1987, at 10 p.m. a 22-year-old woman was at a laundromat in Seminole taking clothes out of a washing machine, when a man came up behind her and held a knife to her side. 

He took her outside the building and forced her into the passenger seat of her own car before driving off, according to authorities. 

He drove north on Seminole Boulevard before pulling off into a wooded area. Officials say that is when he forced the victim out of the car and sexually battered her. 

Then he forced the woman back in the car, returned her to the laundromat and told her to wait in the bathroom for 10 minutes. 

While the woman was in the bathroom the suspect left the scene. The victim waited then left and called authorities. 

Detectives at the time collected evidence from the scene, including fingerprints found on a public telephone near the laundromat. 

Over the years officials say they tested the prints on multiple occasions but were never able to find a match — until now. 

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An update to their Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) in 2016 improved fingerprint matching algorithms, system structure, accuracy, and efficiency.

In January during a case review, Cold Case Detectives requested the fingerprints be processed again. This time the system identified one possible match — Russell Lee Rogers of Oak Vale, Mississippi. 

Through cooperation with the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, a search warrant was obtained to collect DNA from Rogers. The DNA was sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Tampa Bay Regional Operations Center for analysis. 

It confirmed Rogers as the suspect in the case. 

An arrest warrant was obtained and on Friday Rogers was arrested by the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation.

Pinellas County Detectives interviewed the suspect in Monticello, Mississippi. He told them he couldn't recall the incident, but didn't deny the allegations against him. 

He was charged and booked into jail in Mississippi where he is waiting to be extradited to Pinellas County.