Police arrest rape suspect

An 18-year-old St. Petersburg man was arrested for Wednesday’s brazen daytime rape of an 8-year-old girl.

Published July 20, 2006

ST. PETERSBURG — Kenny Miller knew Henry Sengaroun suffered from mental health issues and that his own mother was afraid of him. Sometimes, the 18-year-old would wander the neighborhood aimlessly, said Miller, a community police officer.

On Thursday, police arrested Sengaroun, saying he raped an 8-year-old girl in broad daylight near Central Oak Park. Miller had told detectives to check out Sengaroun after learning about the man who fled the scene.

“When they described the suspect, it matched him to a T. I knew he was hanging out in that area,” said Miller, 29, who started working in the neighborhood two months ago. “Most community police officers try to get to know the bad people in the neighborhood.’’

Sengaroun faces a charge of capital sexual battery. As police led him to the cruiser that would take him to the jail Thursday evening, Sengaroun looked dazed and had a slight smile on his face. He wore a sandal on one foot and a sneaker with untied shoelaces on the other one. When asked whether he committed the crime, he repeated, “I did not.”

Sengaroun recently lived a few blocks from Booker Creek Park in the North Kenwood neighborhood. But police described him as a transient who didn’t stay in one place very long.

He has two previous arrests, one for the possession of tobacco last September, and one for trespassing this March. He is unemployed, and suffers from mental health issues, according to an arrest affidavit.

Detective Joe Bross, a crimes against children investigator, said police spoke to Sengaroun briefly Wednesday evening and arrested him Thursday after speaking to him. Bross said they also spoke to his mother, who was deeply shaken.

Bross said Sengaroun had discarded his shirt while fleeing. That evidence helped tie him to the scene. The 8-year-old girl also identified Sengaroun in a photo lineup, Bross said.

“I am really happy they got him,” said Aaron Chambliss, 30, who had chased the man he saw struggling with the girl, his neighbor.

The hunt for the rapist had the quiet, middle-class Central Oak neighborhood on edge early Thursday.

The playground at Central Oak Park was eerily silent. Parents kept their children away out of fear. Neighbors kept their doors locked.

“I’m shaking,” said Alana Brown, 29, who left with her two sons and 8-year-old daughter shortly after learning of the attack. “I’m so shocked.”

The brazen nature of the rape also shocked authorities and experts.

Lin Huff-Corzine, an expert in criminal behavior at the University of Central Florida, said the manner of the rape was “exceptionally unusual.”

Rapes occur more often in secluded areas, and are usually committed by people who know their victims, she said.

“Rapists have a tendency to enjoy stalking their victim,” she said.

A few neighborhood children said they have noticed lone adults hanging around the fenced-in park.

Staff writer Aaron Sharockman contributed reporting to this story. Abhi Raghunathan can be reached at araghunathan@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8472.