Shortly before 6 p.m. on August 6, 1992, a man forced his way into a 25-year-old woman’s car as she parked in her driveway in Palmetto, Florida. The attacker drove the car to an orange grove in Manatee County where he robbed her, raped and beat her.
The woman escaped when he got out to put her in the trunk. She managed to drive off.
The victim worked with police to create a composite sketch of her attacker and a police officer thought it resembled Derrick Williams, 29, who had been acquitted in 1981 of the abduction and rape of a woman in an orange grove north of Palmetto.
A photo of Williams was placed in a photo array and the victim identified him. She also picked him out of a live lineup.
Based on her identification in court, Williams was convicted in March 1993. He was found guilty of kidnapping, sexual battery, robbery, grand theft auto and two counts of battery. He was sentenced to two consecutive sentences of life in prison.
Williams later sought DNA testing of a shirt found at the crime scene that the victim said her attacker had worn and the removed to put over her head. Tests excluded Williams and showed the DNA of two other people.
On March 28, 2011, Manatee County Circuit Judge Mark Gilner granted Williams a new trial. The prosecution dismissed the charges on April 4, 2011 and Williams was released.
– Maurice Possley