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Man accused in assault on cyclist

The suspect in the 2001 armed abduction of a woman along the Withlacoochee Trail was already in jail, accused of burglary and raping a child.

SUZANNAH GONZALES
Published September 11, 2003

Almost two years after a woman was assaulted on the Withlacoochee State Trail, authorities have brought charges against an Inverness man who they say was the attacker.

Keith Allen Benafield, 30, of 821 S Montgomery Ave., is charged with kidnapping, aggravated battery while in possession of a firearm, attempted robbery with a firearm and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Benafield already was in jail Wednesday awaiting disposition of a different case, in which he is charged with burglary of a dwelling, possession of a firearm by a felon, sexual battery on a child younger than 12 and aggravated assault. In that case, he is being held without bail.

On Dec. 7, 2001, a 55-year-old Inverness woman was riding her bicycle on the trail when she saw a man walking behind the Sportsman's Park Bowling Alley, off U.S. 41 N. The woman said he turned and pointed a small-caliber pistol and told her to get off the bike.

After the woman complied, the man tried to force the woman into the woods, authorities said. They said he eventually let her go - possibly because someone was approaching on the trail - but first struck her in the face with his fist, fracturing her jaw. Then he fled.

Three people Benafield knows provided Citrus County sheriff's detectives with information about his alleged involvement in the crime, according to sheriff's spokeswoman Gail Tierney. Benafield told the three people he committed the crime and planned to rob the woman. That information led detectives to obtain a warrant for Benafield's arrest.

The case for which Benafield already was in jail stems from a July arrest, records show. Benafield was accused of raping a 4-year-old girl. The girl told investigators she and Benafield were in a bathroom together naked when he had intercourse with her, according to an arrest report.

Benafield also was accused of stealing rods, reels, a tackle box, tent and air mattresses from an Inverness storage shed in April, and of pointing a gun at a woman during a domestic argument, a police report said.

Also in July, Benafield was charged with selling a harmful video to a minor, according to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement report.

In the early 1990s, the report said, Benafield was arrested in Alachua County, charged with burglary and petty larceny.

- Suzannah Gonzales can be reached at 860-7312 or sgonzales@sptimes.com

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