INDIAN ROCKS BEACH, Fla. — It took more than two decades, but the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office has finally made an arrest in an attack on Indian Rocks Beach back in 1998.

  • Deputies arrest man accused of raping woman in 1998
  • Robert Thomas, of Michigan, also faces charges in another cold case
  • Investigators said they used DNA database to help find suspect

Investigators say it happened near the 12th Avenue beach access path. A woman walking alone at the time was chased and raped by an unknown man.

“It’s something that you never get over. It’s something that you live with,” said Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, of the victim.

But now, thanks to users of home DNA kits, Gualtieri says cold case investigators finally got a DNA match and arrested Robert Thomas of Michigan last week.

“I’m sure after all this amount of time thought it was something he was able to get away with,” Gualtieri said. “It doesn’t work that way.”

Investigators were able to use GEDmatch, a DNA database that compiles results from a number of genealogy companies whose users sign off on law enforcement access. The sheriff said Thomas was found through a familial match with a fourth-cousin in Ocala.

“She wanted to help.  She was extremely cooperative,” Gualtieri said.  

Not only was Thomas arrested and charged in that case, but he also faces charges in another 1998 cold case rape in Venice, Florida.

Thomas was arrested in Michigan, where he now lives.