TAMPA, Fla. – On December 17, 2000, the Tampa Police Department responded to Mohawk Ave. for the report of an armed sexual battery and burglary. The victim stated she had returned to the home she shared with her sister when she was confronted by an intruder who was already inside the house. The victim stated the intruder had his face covered up to his eyes with a mask.
The suspect pointed a small silver firearm and ordered the victim to step inside and close the door. He forced the victim to undress and then sexually battered her. Described as a black male in his twenties, the suspect ordered the victim to remain in the bathroom as he fled. A sexual battery kit was conducted and uploaded into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), but no match was found.
On July 7, 2001, a Tampa Police Officer attempted to pull over a man named Antonio Rivers for a traffic violation. Rivers fled on foot and discarded a silver Bryco Jennings 9mm semi-automatic pistol with a 3.75″ barrel. The gun was recovered and Rivers was apprehended. During an interview conducted with Rivers after his arrest, he admitted to possessing the pistol for about 2 years. Rivers was 5 days from his 20th birthday at the time of this offense.
In January 2020, a Tampa Police Latent Fingerprint Specialist re-analyzed prints that were collected during the rape and burglary investigation, and entered them into the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS).
Prints lifted from a bedroom were a match to a male relative who was quickly ruled out as a suspect. An additional set of two right palm prints were lifted from the bathtub in the room where the rape took place. These prints were matched to Antonio Rivers by way of an Offender Based Tracking System number, corresponding to a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office booking record for Rivers.
Based on Rivers statement in his July 2001 arrest, he was in possession of a silver in color semi-automatic pistol at about the same time the burglary and rape were committed.
During a follow-up interview, the victim’s sister stated she did not know an Antonio Rivers and had no explanation as to why his print would be in the apartment bathroom. The victim was asked if she knew an Antonio Rivers, and she stated she did not. However, she immediately recalled an incident in 2014 where a subject, identifying himself as Antonio Rivers on Facebook, sent her a profane tirade that made no sense to her at the time. She indicated she did not know him, had not recalled ever meeting him, and could not understand why he messaged her. She forwarded the messages to the police, where it is apparent by her responses at the time that she did not know him. The Facebook photo appeared similar to the same Antonio Rivers whose palm print was discovered on the bathtub.
On July 2, 2020, Tampa Police Detectives went to the home of Rivers to serve a search warrant for a buccal swab. An interview was conducted with Rivers, who denied ever being at the crime scene, denied knowing or recognizing the victim, and stated his DNA, prints, or hairs should not be found at the crime scene.
On September 3, 2020, Tampa Police received the lab report analysis from FDLE generated by the buccal swab collected from Rivers. The report determined the DNA from the buccal swab to be a match to the DNA collected during the sexual assault exam.
On September 8, 2020, Antonio Rivers was arrested and charged with Armed Sexual Battery and Armed Burglary of a Dwelling.
“We will never give up on our commitment to find justice for victims and hold criminals accountable”, said Chief Brian Dugan. “While it may sometimes take longer than we hope, we want every crime victim to know we never think of an investigation as a “cold case” and will use every advancement in investigative approach and technology to review cases that are not yet solved”.