Man's face comes back to haunt victim of rape


Published: Thursday, January 5, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 4, 2006 at 10:43 p.m.
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Price

Sun file photo
When she closed her eyes and thought back to that November morning eight years ago, all she could see was her rapist's blood-shot eyes looking down at her.
And as the former University of Florida student, who was raped in 1997, scanned through the mugs of a photo lineup, one face besieged her.
"When I looked at each image in the photo array, I had this sick feeling in my stomach when my eyes landed on his face," the victim, who wished to remain unnamed, wrote Wednesday in an e-mail interview with The Sun.
The face that haunted her belonged to Leo Price Jr., a 52-year-old Gainesville man who was arrested Tuesday on charges of sexual battery, attempted murder and armed burglary.
Price was linked to the rape after investigators with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement matched his DNA obtained after an unrelated drug arrest to the 1997 rape.
Two weeks ago, the victim identified the attacker in a photo lineup in New York, where she lives, after Detective Patty Nixon with the Gainesville Police Department told her about the DNA match.
She identified Price as the man who entered her unlocked apartment in southwest Gainesville on Nov. 20 as she slept. Armed with a knife, the man tried to smother the then 19-year-old with a pillow and then he raped her.
The years passed with no leads and no suspects until the DNA match was made in late December using the CODIS database, a national DNA profile repository maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
And when the woman, now 27, received the news of Price's arrest, she said she was glad justice would finally be served.
"I always hoped they'd catch him, but I prayed that it wouldn't be because he attacked another girl," the woman said.
The woman said she was "completely devastated" after being raped.
Every move she made, she said she thought he was watching her. When she tried to sleep at night, the woman said, she was nervous and worried that he would get her if she was alone.
She couldn't stand to be alone, she said.
Too distraught to stay at UF, she finished her coursework through e-mail and enrolled at another university, where she completed her undergraduate degree.
"Everyday life was very difficult," the woman said. "For two years, I went along with daily tasks, but I felt like my soul was stolen. Gradually, with the help of my family, I began to recover psychologically and emotionally."
Eight years later, the woman said she is in a meaningful relationship, works in publishing and leads a normal life. She is not married and she has no children.
Over the years, the woman said she checked on the case to see if there were any new leads, hoping that the person responsible for raping her would be brought to justice.
"I believe that a person must be punished for the crimes they commit," she said. "If there was no judicial system and criminals weren't punished, we'd live in anarchy. I didn't want him to harm another person."
Price, who detectives say neither confirmed nor denied the charges against him, is being held at the Alachua County jail without bond. Price's criminal history includes a 1992 spousal battery charge that was dropped, a 1988 aggravated assault charge and two indecent exposure convictions in the early 1980s.
Price's most recent arrest for drug possession in September led investigators to his DNA after he submitted a required test sample.
With the woman's positive identification of Price in the lineup and strong DNA evidence, police are certain they have the right man, said Sgt. Keith Kameg, spokesman for GPD. But Kameg said it's ultimately up to a jury to decide guilt or innocence.
"In all the years I've worked in law enforcement, I can say there's no such thing as a slam-dunk case," Kameg said. "The victim has shown a tremendous amount of strength and we're very comfortable with the evidence. We feel there will be a successful prosecution."
When and if the case goes to court, the woman said she has reservations about attending the trial because she is still afraid for her safety.
"I think the least amount of physical involvement is the smartest route," she said. "I don't want to endanger my life; I just want justice."
Deborah Ball can be reached at (352) 338-3109 or balld@ gvillesun.com

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