‘Brutal rapist’ tied to Duval County case captured in Orange County after woman found mutilated, deputies say

Bruce Whitehead (Orange County Sheriff's Office)

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – A registered sexual predator considered a “brutal rapist” after a woman was found mutilated has been arrested, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

News4JAX sister station WKMG in Orlando reported that the sheriff’s office said Bruce Whitehead, 54, was arrested Thursday after investigators received a tip from a resident following a five-day manhunt.

Whitehead was convicted of kidnapping, armed sexual battery and first-degree attempted murder in a 1986 Duval County case and spent 20 years in prison.

According to the Florida Department of Corrections website, Whitehead was sentenced in 1987 to 30 years on the attempted murder charge and 40 years each on the kidnapping charge and armed sexual battery charges, meaning if he had served the full 40 years of his sentence, he would have been in prison until 2027.

Deputies said Whitehead attacked a woman around 4 a.m. Saturday in the area of North Pine Hills Road and North Lane. The sheriff’s office said the woman was approached by Whitehead and she willingly got into his car. He then stopped at a convenience store and brought her a water, the report shows.

After driving away, Whitehead stopped and walked around to the passenger door and told the woman to get out while holding a knife to her throat, according to the incident report. He then sexually attacked her, officials said.

“Personally, I would qualify him as a monster. That’s my personal take. At the sheriff’s office we do believe him to be a danger to the community, which is why we have reached out to the citizens of Central Florida in an effort to bring him in so he doesn’t harm somebody else,” said Cpl. Evan Avila, of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office sex crimes unit.

Deputies said Whitehead was wearing a hat, which covered some of the tattoos on his face.

Deputies were later called to the area and found the woman “scared and shocked,” according to the incident report. The woman said she thought Whitehead was going to kill her, the report read.

“After he sexually battered her, he attempted to murder our victim, and at that point, our victim bravely fought him off and was able to escape to a nearby subdivision,” Avila said.

The victim was assisted by bystanders after she was able to escape, officials said.

The woman was taken to the trauma center at Orlando Regional Medical Center, sheriff’s officials said, and she is expected to recover, but the extent of her injuries has not been released.

A manhunt followed, and deputies found the vehicle Whitehead was driving on Saturday evening, and then obtained an arrest warrant for him, leading to his eventual capture on Thursday.

Resources for survivors and their families

  • The National Sexual Assault Hotline, 24 hours, call 1-800-656-4673
  • Women’s Center of Jacksonville’s 24-hour rape crisis hotline: 904-721-7273
  • Sexual abuse survivors in the Jacksonville area can get resources through Jewish Family & Community Services (JFCS), call 904-448-1933 or email info@jfcsjax.org

About the Authors:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined ClickOrlando.com in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013. She reports for and anchors The Morning Show.