James Byrd was arrested on December 9, 2020 and charged with the sexual assaults of three women in Tampa and Hillsborough County, Florida. The first rape took place in Tampa on March 8, 1998. The 22-year-old victim was walking alone when the assailant made a U-turn in his vehicle, pulled up beside her and offer her a ride. After she got into the vehicle, he raped her at knife point.
The victim’s sexual assault kit was tested in 2015, at which point it was linked to two very similar rapes in Hillsborough County that took place in 1999.
A familial search of law enforcement databases was performed in March of 2020 and turned up no further leads. The case was then sent to Parabon Nanolabs, who conducted the FGG investigation. Police made the initial confirmation through surreptitious sampling.
Byrd pled not guilty, and his case proceeded in Hillsborough County.
Byrd was tried for the March, 1998 assault and was acquitted by a jury after only an hour of deliberation on December 7, 2021. The defence had argued that the victim was a prostitute, and there was no corroborating evidence that the sexual encounter was not consensual beyond the victim’s testimony.
Sullivan reports, “His attorney, Benjamin Buck, admitted that Byrd had sexual contact with the woman, but questioned her credibility, emphasizing that she had made money through prostitution. ‘He hired a prostitute,’ Buck told the jury. ‘The prostitute got in his truck and they had sex. That’s all that happened.’”
The victim claims that he raped her at knife point, and then dropped her off, throwing her clothing out the window. She reported the incident to the police right away, and attended a hospital, where a sexual assault kit was administered. This is the only offence to date cleared through FGG that has resulted in an acquittal.
There is currently no information on the progress of the remaining two charges against Byrd.
10 Tampa Bay Staff. “Arrest Made in 1998 Rape and Kidnapping Case, Tampa Police Say.” 10 Tampa Bay News, December 10, 2020. Accessed December 11, 2020. https://www.wtsp.com/article/news/crime/tampa-police-arrest-kidnapping-rape-case/67-5aeca707-0337-4f3f-be4d-94b37d124c12?fbclid=IwAR0zyuw9S3TFbXlkDDB6s5bBNUbrF_-NbhlGLFuJ_NuLWZ_ZFforWRuEK5w.
Fiallo, Josh. “Man, 60, Accused in 1998 Kidnapping, Sexual Battery, Tampa Police Say.” Tampa Bay Times, December 10, 2020. Accessed December 11, 2020. https://www.tampabay.com/news/crime/2020/12/10/man-60-accused-in-1998-kidnapping-sexual-battery-tampa-police-say/.
Sullivan, Dan. “23 Years Later, Jury Acquits Man in Tampa Rape Case.” Tampa Bay Times, December 7, 2021. Accessed December 29, 2021. https://www.tampabay.com/news/crime/2021/12/07/23-years-later-jury-acquits-man-in-tampa-rape-case/.
Tampa Government. “Arrest Made in 1998 Armed Kidnapping and Rape Case.” Tampa Government (Press Release), December 10, 2020. Accessed December 11, 2020. https://www.tampa.gov/news/arrest-made-1998-armed-kidnapping-and-rape-case-61141.