JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The law requires you to tell sexual partners if you have HIV, but police say one bus driver with the Jacksonville Transportation Authority did not, and now he is sitting in jail.
Investigators said that JP Lowe met a passenger on his bus and started a relationship that turned sexual, never disclosing that he was HIV positive. But investigators said that she isn't the only one.
Lowe, 62, is facing three felony charges of sexual intercourse without disclosure of HIV, involving two women. JTA said Lowe, who is in jail on $1.2 million bond, has been fired for abandonment of employment.
Gene Nichols, an attorney not affiliated with the case, says Lowe's arrest in Lake County for the same charge, plus his most recent relationships may have been the deciding factor for his large bond of $1.2 million.
"Clearly the court made a determination that the individual is a threat to the public," Nichols said.
Court documents said that in 2006, Lowe was arrested and tried for indecent exposure after a neighbor told police she saw him performing a lewd act inside his garage. A judge found him not guilty.
Nichols says his two most recent charges could hold penalties of up to 30 years behind bars, but prosecuting him could be tough.
"What ends up happening in a lot of these cases, if they make it that far, is a he-said-she-said. There's obviously going to be a presumption maybe that there was a sexual relationship, but the question becomes: How is there evidence of the claim?" Nichols said.
A former co-worker, who asked not to be identified, told News4Jax that Lowe, who had been with JTA since October 2012, was always flirting with co-workers and women he would meet on his bus route. In the arrest report, two victims said they slept with Lowe and didn't know he had HIV. One of them said she met him while riding the bus.
"He needs to be put away for a long time, a very long time," the former co-worker said. "I just knew the guy was pretty strange from the time I met him on the job. He just seemed to be the type of person that went out of his way to pretty much please the women."
Lowe was questioned by police last Monday after the first victim came forward. During that interview, another victim met with police and told them she met Lowe in May 2014 while riding the bus Lowe was driving. She said they had sex the same day they met. She said she never knew Lowe was infected until the first victim showed up at her house and told her.
The first victim apparently got an anonymous social media message and wound up communicating with Lowe's ex-wife, who told her Lowe is infected with HIV. The woman confronted Lowe at the second victim's home, and that's when she told the second victim he was infected, according to the report.
According to witnesses, the second victim went into panic mode.
"He's slept with several woman. Maybe they don't know, but they need to be tested and if they ever had any contact with this gentleman they need to have an HIV test," the former co-worker said.
News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said people need to get tested and always ask their partners to show their HIV status.
"It is a very personal question. It's almost an accusatory question," Smith said. "But it's a life-or-death question. People can die from HIV. "Maybe a better way to ease into that conversation is to both of you go down and get tested."
The former co-worker said it's important to get to know a person's lifestyle before you have unprotected sex with the person.
"It's a death sentence if you don't know," the co-worker said. "You could be walking around here sick, and at the last minute it's too late. It's an unfortunate situation; it's tragic."
Lowe was arrested for the same charge in Lake County in 2003. He pleaded no contest and was placed on probation and adjudication was withheld.
JTA said a a complete background check was done before Lowe was hired, and nothing was found, including his 2003 arrest. JTA said it will check with the company it contracts with for background checks to see why the 2003 arrest wasn't turned up.
People interested in checking out how and where to get tested themselves can head to https://gettested.cdc.gov/search_results to find out.