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DNA tests lead to more charges

A man charged with one armed sexual assault is now being investigated in connection with almost two dozen assaults.

By CURTIS KRUEGER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 5, 2002

ST. PETERSBURG -- A 49-year-old man charged last week with armed sexual assault now faces charges of raping four other women.

Police also are investigating Otis James Wright in connection with 18 other sexual assaults, many of them cases in which a bicycle-riding assailant threatened, beat and assaulted women in St. Petersburg around 18th Avenue S.

"We're looking at around 23 cases, dating back to the '80s," said St. Petersburg Sgt. Katy Connor-Dubina.

Wright, 49, of 1601 13th St. S, surrendered to authorities on Christmas Eve after police announced they were seeking him in connection with an April 2000 rape.

On Friday, police announced that they had obtained DNA samples while Wright was in jail on that case, which they said tied him to the additional assaults. He was charged with five more counts of sexual battery and four counts of false imprisonment.

The investigation of Wright began after the September 2001 assault of Kelly Ostroski, 30, who was found shot and killed about two weeks later in an industrial area beside the Pinellas Trail north of the intersection of Eighth Avenue S and 46th Street.

Detective Denise Schmidt said that case and similar ones prompted her to comb through records of other sexual assaults. She even flipped through written log books of sex crimes during the 1980s and 1990s, looking for patterns.

The common threads in cases she found included: a man who threatened and beat his victims, whom he did not know, and who often rode a bicycle; and assaults generally in abandoned buildings and vacant lots, including the 1200 block of 18th Avenue S, the 1700 block of 13th Street S, and the corner of Fairfield Avenue S and 24th Street. The victims included both white and black women in their 20s, 30s and 40s. They had been threatened with weapons, including a gun, a screwdriver and a brick.

Wright is being charged in the assault of Ostroski, in spite of the legal difficulties of prosecuting a case against a victim who has died, Connor-Dubina said.

Wright has a history of robberies, sexual batteries and DUIs. He has been held in the Pinellas County Jail since his arrest last month. His bail has been set at $300,000.

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