TAMPA, Fla. — Police say with the help of DNA and fingerprint evidence, they have arrested the person they believe to be responsible for an armed burglary and rape that happened nearly 20 years ago.
Officers say it all started on Dec. 17, 2000 when police responded to a home on Mohawk Ave. in Tampa after getting a report of an armed sexual battery and burglary.
The woman who was assaulted told officers when she got home, she was confronted by an intruder inside the home she shared with her sister. The intruder pointed a small silver firearm at the woman and ordered her to step inside and close the door. The woman told police he forced her to undress and then raped her.
The woman told police the intruder then ordered her to stay in the bathroom while he fled. She reported to police the intruder was a Black man in his 20s.
At the time of the attack, a rape kit was done and uploaded to CODIS, but no match was found.
Police say on July 7, 2001, a TPD officer tried to stop Antonio Rivers for a traffic violation. Rivers fled on foot and discarded a silver Bryco Jennings 9mm semi-automatic pistol. The gun was recovered and Rivers was caught and arrested. During an interview following his arrest, Rivers told police he had had the pistol for about two years.
Police say Rivers turned 20 just a few days after the armed burglary and rape.
Then, in January 2020, a TPD Latent Fingerprint Specialist re-analyzed prints that were collected during the rape and burglary investigation and entered them into AFIS. The specialist found a set of two right palm prints that had been lifted from the bathtub in the bathroom where the rape happened. Those prints were matched to Antonio Rivers, police say.
Police note that based on Rivers' statement during his July 2001 arrest, he had a silver colored semi-automatic pistol around the same time the burglary and rape happened.
Police then re-interviewed the woman and her sister to ask if they knew Antonio Rivers. While neither woman knew him, the woman told officers that a man named Antonio Rivers had sent her a profane tirade on Facebook that hadn't made any sense to her at the time. She told police she didn't know him and couldn't recall ever meeting him, so she didn't understand why he had messaged her.
She sent to messages to officers, who say that her responses at the time made it apparent she didn't know Rivers. The Facebook photo appeared similar to the same Antonio Rivers whose prints were found on the bathtub, police say.
Detectives went to Rivers home on July 2 to serve a search warrant for a buccal swab. When detectives interviewed him, Rivers denied ever being at the crime scene and denied knowing or recognized the woman who had been assaulted. Decectives say he also stated his DNA, prints or hairs should not be found at the crime scene.
On Sept. 3, Police received a lab report on the buccal swab from the FDLE. The DNA from the swab matched the DNA collected during the sexual assault exam.
Rivers, now 39, was arrested and charged with armed sexual battery and armed burglary.
"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."