Sex offender living in Putnam County suspected in 1980 rape case

Richard Shepherd to be transported to Miami to face armed sexual battery charges

By Erik Avanier - Reporter

PUTNAM COUNTY, Fla. - A registered sex offender living in Putnam County is now the prime suspect in a 1980 rape cold case in Miami.

According to the State Attorney's Office in Miami, DNA from a sexual assault that occurred 39 years ago was linked to Richard Wayne Shepherd, who served nearly 28 years in prison for attempted murder and sexual battery in South Florida and was released in 2010. 

"The more time goes by, the more the victim really suffers without any sense of justice," said State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. "These cold cases are extremely difficult to put together but very rewarding when you are able to put them together."

The 1980 rape investigation began two years before Shepherd was convicted of rape and attempted murder.

According to a warrant, in January 1980, Shepherd was armed with a can opener when he entered the room of a woman who was sleeping and woke her up. The woman told police her attacker sexually assaulted her three times. She also said he threatened to kill her if she screamed and tried to rob her before running away, the warrant stated.

In February, a crime lab got a hit on Shepherd’s DNA, which matched DNA from the 1980 rape case, according to the State Attorney's Office. The victim in that case was eventually notified and picked Shepherd out of a photo lineup, the State Attorney's Office said.

Over the weekend, Putnam County deputies arrested Shepherd, 57, at a Crescent City home, where he had been living, on the Miami warrant related to the cold case. 

Neighbors living along a stretch of Old Highway 17 said they knew they were living next to a registered sex offender, but were shocked to find out the same man is the suspect in the 1980 cold case out of Miami.

"To be honest, my heart is shaking just knowing that we’ve been living across the street from him," one neighbor, who wished to remain anonymous, told News4Jax on Monday. 

At some point, Shepherd will be transported from the Putnam County jail to Miami, where he faces three counts of armed sexual battery. 

If convicted on those counts, Shepherd could go back to prison and spend the rest of his life there.

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