Suspect's arrest revives pain
A man accused of killing a student raped a Tampa woman in 1987. She is surprised he was ever let out of prison.
By ABBIE VANSICKLE
Published June 7, 2006
TAMPA — Nearly two decades before Jerry Buck Inman was accused of strangling a Clemson University student with a bikini top, he broke into another woman’s South Tampa apartment, robbed and raped her.
Years of therapy helped the victim block Inman’s name from her mind.
But when she learned from a reporter Wednesday that he is accused of killing 20-year-old Tiffany Marie Souers, she said she wasn’t surprised.
“I hope this sick bastard never gets out of jail,” she said, expressing disgust with the criminal justice system during a brief interview that ended at her request.
The woman, whose identity is being withheld by the St. Petersburg Times because of the nature of the crime, said she did not know Inman was out of prison for the 1987 rape.
Inman, 35, of Tennessee, was arrested early Wednesday, accused of breaking into Souers’ off-campus apartment in Central, S.C., binding her wrists and ankles and strangling her. He was arraigned and held without bail.
He faces charges of murder, kidnapping and first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Souers’ body was found May 26; investigators say DNA from her apartment led them to Inman.
He also faces charges in a May 23 attempted rape in Rainsville, Ala., and is a suspect in a May 24 rape in Sevierville, Tenn., authorities said.
Jefferson County Chief Deputy Bob McCoig said Inman confessed to all three incidents.
Victims identified him by his many tattoos, which include a bat on his neck, a tiger on his chest and a skull pentagram on his left hand.
“It seems like he was just wandering around, finding vulnerable people — women — and preying on them and conducting sexual assaults and getting progressively worse,” Jefferson County Sheriff David Davenport said.
Investigators arrested Inman near his parents’ home in Dandridge, Tenn., authorities said. A registered sex offender, Inman listed that address when he moved to Tennessee in 2005 after he was released from a Florida prison.
He served 16 years of a 30-year sentence for the Tampa rape.
In December 1987, Inman, then 17, was on the run, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.
He escaped from North Carolina authorities, who accused him of burglary, larceny, grand theft and a sex offense.
He bought a Greyhound bus ticket in Anderson, S.C. He told the attendant he wanted to get to Tampa, but he had only enough money to go to Orlando, according to police reports.
Somehow, he got to Tampa anyway.
On Dec. 14, 1987, Inman climbed on top of a bucket, popped open a window screen and entered an apartment on Platt Street, just west of Dale Mabry Highway, according to police reports.
It was 12:30 a.m., and the two residents, female roommates, were in bed.
He told them to “shut up” and pointed a handgun at one woman’s head. He forced her to tie up her roommate with telephone cord. Then he bound her.
He raped one of the women and demanded money. He took $50 and the key to one of the women’s 1983 Subaru Brat truck. He drove off.
Investigators caught up with him in Charlotte, N.C., after an acquaintance of Inman’s said he confessed to hitting someone and taking her keys and vehicle.
He was arrested in Charlotte and returned to Tampa. He pleaded guilty on Sept. 5, 1989, court records show.
His 15 disciplinary reports in prison include rioting, attempted escape, possession of weapons and drugs, tattooing, unarmed assault and performing an obscene act, according to the state’s Department of Corrections.
He was sentenced for the rape well before legislators passed a law requiring prisoners to serve at least 85 percent of a sentence.
On Sept. 1, 2005, after serving time in both Florida and North Carolina, he was released from Jefferson Correctional Institution.
His victim says she wasn’t notified of his release. She said she didn’t know he was out of prison until she spoke with a reporter Wednesday evening.
The state Department of Corrections has an automated inmate information and notification service, allowing victims to be notified when an inmate is released, transferred, escapes, is placed in a work release facility, is returned to the department’s custody or dies in custody.
Victims are not automatically notified, though. They must register for the service, according to the Department of Corrections.
Inman’s mother, Vera McArthur, told the Greenville News that her son is bipolar and often suicidal. She said he had been doing construction work in Tennessee, but she didn’t think he had been in South Carolina recently.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this story. Times researchers Caryn Baird and Cathy Wos contributed to this report. Abbie VanSickle can be reached at 226-3373 or firstname.lastname@example.org.