• DNA match leads to charges against Jacksonville man 14 years after rape outside church

    By: Jenna Bourne , Action News Jax


    JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Jacksonville man is charged with raping a woman outside a downtown church 14 years later after the assault occurred.

    James Steel is facing the latest in a string of sexual battery and kidnapping charges over the past two decades.

    In 2005, a woman reported a man pointed a gun at her chest at the old Greyhound bus station downtown, led her to a nearby church and raped her in the bushes.


    She completed a rape kit, but it wasn’t tested until May 2017, using funding from the federal sexual assault kit initiative.

    The DNA matched James Steel, according to his arrest warrant.

    He was charged May 1 -- two years after the rape kit was tested, and 14 years after the assault was reported.

    Action News Jax Law and Safety Expert Dale Carson said it’s crucial the rape kit testing and charging processes happen quickly.

    “I taught sex crimes for the FBI for a number of years,” said Carson. “It’s imperative to catch these people in the beginning and not years later after they’ve repeatedly victimized members of the community.”

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    According to the Florida Department of Corrections, James Steel is already serving life in prison for felony kidnapping and five counts of sexual battery coerced by threat.

    According to court records, Steel has been charged with at least eight other sexual batteries in Duval County.

    Action News Jax asked the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office why it took 12 years to test the rape kit and two more years to charge Steel.

    “In 2005, the victim was not able to be located for follow-up and the case was suspended. In 2017, the medical examination for this case was selected for further processing as part of the SAKI [Sexual Assault Kit Initiative] grant. The match was made in January of 2018. Detectives had to track down the victim because the victim’s location was unknown. The victim was searched for and was located out of state. Contact was made with the victim who cooperated with detectives so an investigation could take place and an arrest could be made. The suspect had been in prison since 2008,” said JSO spokesperson Melissa Bujeda in an emailed statement.

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