Update: $400,000 bond set in robbery, sex-assault case
Published: Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 11:52 p.m.
(Update posted at 11:45 a.m.) The man accused of terrorizing two University of Florida students early Wednesday while robbing them and sexually assaulting one of them had little to say in court on Thursday morning.
Jay Meeks, 20, of Gainesville, made his first court appearance on charges of sexual assault with a weapon, two counts of home invasion robbery with a firearm and two counts of kidnapping. Judge Thomas Jaworski set bond for Meeks at $400,000 during a hearing via video while Meeks was at the jail and Jaworski at the county's criminal courthouse.
Meeks provided "yes" and "no" answers to most of Jaworski's questions, including that he planned to hire his own attorney rather than request that the Public Defender's Office be assigned to his case.
While Jaworski was setting conditions for Meeks, he ordered Meeks to have no contact with the two women, and Meeks responded by saying, "I don't know their names."
Jaworski did not say their names in court but told Meeks the names would be included in first appearance paperwork he would receive.
- Karen Voyles
Man charged in UF students' sexual battery, robbery
(Original article published at 6 a.m.) Forensic evidence discovered on a car led police within 15 hours to a man accused of robbing two University of Florida students and then sexually battering one of the women early Wednesday.
Officers captured Jay Allen Meeks, 20, of Gainesville at his home at 3010 S.W. 23rd Terrace, Apt. 83, at about 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Officers questioned Meeks for about six hours before he was taken to the Alachua County jail on charges of sexual battery, home invasion robbery and kidnapping.
Police discovered a fingerprint on the car that the suspect rode in with the victims and used it to identify Meeks, according to police sources.
Gathering information about Meeks, police learned that he lived next door to the same laundromat off Southwest 23rd Terrace where the attacker forced the women to drop him off after he hijacked them and held them at gunpoint inside their home at the Gateway at Gainesville, 4000 S.W. 37th Blvd.
Meeks initially denied the allegations when questioned by Sgt. Ray Barber and detectives Patty Nixon, Mike Schentrup and Nick Ferrara, Kameg said.
He also claimed others had committed the crimes, providing nicknames police could not verify.
But police reported he eventually admitted his involvement and said that his cocaine addiction had contributed to his behavior.
Kameg said Meeks has a limited prior criminal history.
The overnight attack on the women, reported at about 2 a.m., prompted police to canvass the southwest section of the city, question people at the apartment complex and hold a forum for the complex's residents Wednesday evening to advise them about the incident.
Kameg said officers are confident Meeks - who fit the physical description of the robber, had the same clothes and gun as the suspect and matched forensic evidence collected by Investigator Marc Trahan - is the only suspect in the case.
"This appears to have started out to be a robbery and escalated into a sexual battery. Clearly this individual wanted to intimidate and strike fear into these individuals," Kameg said.
One of the women said she was in the parking lot at Gateway at Gainesville apartments at about 12:30 a.m. when a man carrying a black handgun approached her and demanded cash after she had parked her vehicle, Kameg said.
The 20-year-old said she didn't have any money with her. The man forced her to open her apartment and then took money from her and the 18-year-old woman who was also at the home.
While the man was inside, he fired a shot from his gun into the living room wall, Kameg said.
The robber then forced the women to take him to the Wachovia bank off Archer Road, where he took more money, said Sgt. Orlando Alvarez.
The three returned to the apartment complex, where the suspect demanded one of the women engage in a sex act.
The women pleaded with the suspect for their safety, but he threatened to shoot them if they refused to cooperate, according to police.
To protect the younger woman, police said the older woman agreed to the man's demands. The 18-year-old was told to stay in the bathroom while the sexual battery occurred.
Then the gunman had the victims drive him to an area east of Southwest 34th Street near Southwest 23rd Terrace, where he was last seen.
Police were contacted at about 2 a.m. regarding the report of a robbery, false imprisonment, kidnapping and sexual battery.
The robber's distinctive clothing helped police identify Meeks as the suspect, Kameg said.
The man, seen on surveillance video from a parking lot, was wearing a black winter coat, camouflage pants, and tan sandals with socks.
Police also reported he had on a back cloth to partially cover his face and a blue, buttoned-down shirt.
"This is a very unusual case," Kameg said. Most of the city's sexual battery cases involve a suspect who is an acquaintance, he explained.
"We have very few reported unknown attacker cases. Also, the fact that he stayed with them for that long and fired a shot shows how dangerous this individual is," Kameg said.
- Lise Fisher
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