Rapist casts eye on teen, police say

After watching a man in a truck follow her 15-year-old daughter, the mother ushers the girl into her car, then follows the man's truck and gets his license plate number.

Published August 25, 2006

TARPON SPRINGS - A mother's vigilance helped police arrest a registered sex offender who was charged with stalking the mom's 15-year-old daughter this week at the Manatee Village Shopping Center.

Tuesday evening, the teenager was at the shopping center in the 900 block of S Pinellas Avenue soliciting donations for her sports team, according to Tarpon Springs police. Her mother was keeping an eye on her from her car nearby.

As the girl, who was not identified, walked from store to store about 7:15 p.m., police said her mother noticed Ricky D. Keith's blue-and-white Chevrolet pickup following her.

As the mom watched, police said, Keith appeared to have his attention solely focused on her daughter. At one point, according to an arrest report, Keith drove ahead of the girl to the end of the mall and parked in front of a vacant store. He appeared to be waiting for her to catch up to him, police said.

The mother drove up and picked up her daughter before the girl got to Keith's truck, police said. The two followed the truck and got the licence plate number. The mother later identified Keith from a photo pack.

When interviewed, Keith told a detective that he drove straight through the shopping center without stopping, according to the arrest report.

Keith told police he often drives around without a particular place to go and offered to apologize to the girl's mother if she was offended.

Instead, police arrested him.

Keith, 38, of Palm Harbor was booked into the Pinellas County Jail on Wednesday night on one count of aggravated stalking of a minor under 16. He was being held there Thursday in lieu of $10,000 bail.

Keith is a registered sex offender who was convicted of first-degree rape in Kentucky in the mid 1990s, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Keith works for International Golf Maintenance of Lakeland in Polk County, a company that landscapes the Tarpon Springs Golf Course, said Judy Staley, the city's information and research specialist.