JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – An arrest was made in the brutal sexual assault of a child in 2015 in Arlington, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office announced Wednesday.
Henry Williams is charged with sexual battery causing serious injuries to a child.
In August 2015, an 8-year-old girl was sexually assaulted in a wooded area off University Boulevard near Fort Caroline Road. The girl was badly beaten during the assault and was “left for dead,” Sheriff Mike Williams said at a news conference Wednesday announcing the arrest.
The investigation included exhaustive searches and follow-ups on tips from the public. In addition, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement assisted with the investigation by conducting forensic tests on more than 75 pieces of evidence that were submitted, but only a partial DNA profile could be developed and it was insufficient to identify a suspect.
The JSO special assault unit, haunted by the crime, revisited the case in April 2020, and the evidence was reevaluated for DNA comparison.
“Over the years, they have shared that this specific case has been one of the most difficult cases they’ve worked throughout their entire careers,” Sheriff Williams said.
The sheriff said the DNA of Henry Williams was identified to be a match to the crime scene.
An arrest warrant was obtained, and it turned out that Henry Williams, now 20, was already in custody. He recently pleaded guilty to carjacking in the 2017 shooting death of a man, who investigators initially believed was killed in a hit-and-run, in Clay County and was sentenced to four years in prison.
Sheriff Williams said Henry Williams was only 14 years old at the time of the sexual assault and did not have a DNA profile in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) then. His DNA went into CODIS after he pleaded guilty in the Clay County case.
“Because we had that DNA put in the system associated with another crime, we were able to match now the DNA,” Sheriff Williams explained.
The sheriff said he thinks Henry Williams was familiar with the little girl and was believed to have lived in the Arlington area at the time. Sheriff Williams said JSO contacted the girl’s family about the arrest.
Retired JSO Detective Larry Baker was emotional about the arrest, saying the case “was the only one I lost sleep over.”
“No case has ever impacted me like this one has,” Baker said.
He said it was especially hard for him to retire without it being solved and he’s sleeping better now.
“I’m eternally grateful for what they did and I can retire now with a smile on my face,” Baker said.
Henry Williams has been transferred to the Duval County jail.