JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Middleburg man suspected of raping multiple women over the course of four years has been arrested, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams announced Wednesday.
Williams said Brandon Deangelo Young, 34, was connected to the sexual assaults after DNA taken from several victims' rape kits came back as a familial match to someone in the offender DNA database.
That familial match was to Young's brother. Williams said the DNA hit to the brother led them to identify Young as a person of interest in the case. Other investigative efforts helped police obtain a court order for Young's DNA, which matched to the DNA from the rape kits, Williams said.
Young was found at his Middleburg home and taken into custody without incident by Clay County authorities in late July.
“A previously unknown sexual predator was taken off the street and can now be held accountable for his actions,” Williams said.
Young has since been tied to multiple attacks and could have as many as eight victims, Williams said.
News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson, a former Jacksonville Sheriff's Office sex crimes detectives, said that while many people thought the cases had gone cold, detectives followed up with positive results.
“This is overall really good police work that they did," Jefferson said. "It shows the diligence they put into the case. It assures the victims and the victims’ families that police are always working on these things.”
Young is currently charged with six counts of sexual battery, one count of attempted sexual battery and two counts of false imprisonment. Williams said investigators aren't ruling out the possibility of more victims.
The sheriff said anyone familiar with Young or who might know of more victims is asked to contact JSO at 904-630-0500 or CrimeStoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS.
Williams said that from 2006-2009, Young met his victims in social situations, developed a rapport with them and then held them against their will and raped them.
According to incident reports from four cases police said were tied to Young's DNA, the attacks happened in cars.
In the first incident report, from November 2006, the victim told police she was driving at night and got lost in the area of Atlantic Boulevard and St. Johns Bluff Road. She pulled over into a dark parking lot and then she said a man jumped into her car, called her a "whore" and raped her while using a cigarette to burn her arms and hands.
In September 2007, a woman said she met a man who went by "Train" at Bourbon Street Station and agreed to go smoke a "blunt" with him. She said they picked up beer and cigars but then he pulled over and started to take advantage of her. She said when he started to drive off, she fell out of the passenger side door and the car ran over her foot.
The third incident report, from June 2008, said the victim met a man, later identified as Young, while working at a drive-thru window. He asked for her number and the two talked on the phone before she agreed to let him pick her up from work so they could get to know each other. The victim said Young picked her up around 11 p.m. but then drove her to a parking lot near a Walmart on Atlantic Boulevard and raped her. She said he erased her call history and his number from her phone before he let her go.
The fourth victim reported to police in October 2009 that while she was walking westbound on Baymeadows Road, a man pulled up next to her and started to make small talk. She said when she leaned toward the driver's window, he grabbed her by the hair, pulled her inside the car and held her at gunpoint. The victim said the man drove to the parking lot of a Goodyear on Baymeadows road and then forced her to perform oral sex and raped her. She said she threw up in the parking lot after he left her there.
Rape kit testing
State Attorney Melissa Nelson said Wednesday that Young would not have been connected to the rapes if not for the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative that granted funds for agencies to test the backlog of rape kits in Florida.
"He faces life in prison with a mandatory minimum of 25 years," Nelson said of Young. "Discovery will begin, and as we make our required discovery disclosures, more information will be made available."
Jefferson told News4Jax that "the DNA does not lie."
"You can do all you want to do to try to cover up a crime or hide, but DNA is proof-positive," he said.
There was a major backlog in processing more than 7,000 rape kits, starting in 2015.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement took action in the form of helping to pass legislation in 2016, changing the laws requiring rape kits to be submitted to a laboratory within 30 days.
An FDLE spokesperson said Wednesday that all of the 7,609 rape kits have been processed, and from those rape kits more arrests are on the way.
Out of those rape kits 20% or 1,514 produced what's called a CODIS hit. This "hit" means the DNA matched the DNA profile from a convicted offender or arrestee who is already in the database, or the hit signifies a connection to a cold case.
Starting in 2016, FDLE outsourced the backlogged rape kits to private laboratories in New York, Illinois and Colorado among other states.
More than $20 million was allocated to the project by the Florida Legislature, and last year, the State Attorney's Office was given $2.3 million to help expand DNA databases by collecting DNA from convicted sex offenders and people who are arrested. The goal was to help match DNA taken from rape kits by creating more DNA profiles in the system.
But while laboratories were processing backlogged rape kits, more than 7,300 new rapes kits were submitted across the state which required processing as well. More than 6,800 of those new rape kits have been processed, and 99% of those kits were processed within 120 days of receiving them, which is now Florida law.
An FDLE spokesperson said the agency is now in the process of contacting various law enforcement agencies across the state of Florida to let them know about the DNA matches they found and how it pertains to local criminal cases.
Ex-employer, school respond
The I-TEAM learned that Young's Facebook profile page indicated he was a defensive line coach for the St. Johns Country Day School football team last year, so News4Jax contacted the school for a response.
A spokesperson for the school said Wednesday that Young was never employed by the school but was "very briefly and peripherally a volunteer" with the football program last season -- "but hasn't been affiliated with the school since."
During the news conference Wednesday, Williams said that Young worked as a certified nursing assistant at Baptist Hospital briefly.
The hospital released the following statement Wednesday:
We are shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the allegations regarding Brandon Young’s alleged assaults on women in the Jacksonville community. Our hearts and prayers go out to those affected, and we are fully cooperating with law enforcement’s active investigation.
Young was formerly a Flex Team member at Baptist, scheduled on an as-needed basis. He was an employee for one year who was suspended when we were notified of the allegations and has since been terminated.
We are extremely committed to the safety of our team members, volunteers, patients and visitors and we care deeply about the well-being of the greater Jacksonville community. So, while we already follow industry best practice for employee background screening, we are using this as an opportunity to review that process to ensure it is as effective as possible -- and would encourage other employers, in any industry, to consider doing so as well.