Fingerprints on a beer can led Pinellas County Sheriff’s detectives to a suspect in a 30-year-old case of sexual battery on a 17-year-old girl in unincorporated Pinellas Park.
Detectives secured an arrest warrant May 8 and served the warrant for sexual battery on Lawrence Warren Pierce, 54, at the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex in Pikeville, Tennessee on May 14.
The case began March 26, 1984 when deputies responded to a report of a sexual battery at a Pinellas Park apartment. The unidentified teen told deputies that a man had knocked on her door to ask for directions to a bar. She told the man she did not know. He then forced his way inside, locking the door behind him. He asked the victim out on a date.
The 17-year-old told deputies that she had lifted her 2-month old baby out of the crib, thinking the suspect would not harm her with the baby in her arms. She sat down on the couch and began to give the baby a bottle of milk.
Detectives said the man then sat next to her and began fondling her. He took the baby out of her arms and placed it back in the crib. He threw the teen onto her bed, removed her clothing and sexually battered her. The teen fought the man. She kicked him and bit him. Eventually he left.
The teen was able to give deputies a good description of the man and the vehicle he was driving. She also was able to provide information from the conversation between the two.
Crime scene investigators collected several fingerprints, including one from a Budweiser “Tall Boy” beer can that the man left at the scene. A neighborhood canvass and a composite sketch yielded no leads. The case eventually went cold because the fingerprints did not match anyone detectives could identify at the time. Through the years, the sheriff’s office processed the prints on multiple occasions with no matches found.
In November of 2013, an AFIS latent print examiner ran the prints again and discovered a possible match from the FBI database. In December, the sheriff’s office confirmed that the prints belonged to Pierce.
Detectives from the Crimes Against Children Unit with the assistance of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement re-opened the investigation. Detectives conducted hours of meticulous research on the victim and the suspect, conducted multiple interviews and corroborated information to secure a solid case.
Pierce began serving time April 1, 2013 at the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex for violation of probation on a sexual battery and kidnapping charge from 2001. During an in-depth interview with Pierce, detectives found out that Pierce was in Florida during the time of the incident. In addition, detectives corroborated the victim’s original statements regarding the incident and confirmed details of the conversation between the two.
During the interview, detectives confirmed specific details of Pierce’s description as well as a description of the vehicle he was operating, which matched the one described by the victim.
Detectives believe there may be more victims and are asking anyone with information about the case to call Detective Jason Stibbard of the Crimes Against Children Unit at 727-582-6200.