The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office announced this afternoon it has identified a suspect in a string of home invasions in Sarasota and Manatee counties.
Delmer Smith III, 38, was arrested Sept. 10 on a federal warrant for a violation of probation after a bar fight in Venice, and he was subsequently linked to four home invasions:
Feb. 22 at 3534 Osage Terrace
March 7 at 1946 Bougainvillea Street
March 14 at 5240 Carmilfra Way
May 26 at 20 Whispering Sands Drive
During its investigation, Venice police discovered a cache of electronics in his home and notified the sheriff’s office. Sheriff’s investigators discovered that some of the electronics were stolen during two home invasions — Bougainvillea Street and Carmilfra Way.
Sheriff Tom Knight said DNA collected at all four locations matched Smith’s DNA.
He’s been charged with four counts of home invasion robbery, five counts of false imprisonment and two counts of sexual battery.
Knight said Smith is a prime suspect in other unsolved home invasions‚ including one in the East County.
The East County incident occurred March 31 on State Road 70 East. In that case, a 70-year-old woman was attacked at her front door. The suspect pistol-whipped the woman and stole her purse.
“(Smith)’s definitely the best suspect we have now,” Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Dave Bristow said.
Manatee detectives also are looking for a possible links between Smith and the slaying of Terra Ceia resident Kathleen Briles on Aug. 3.
Smith was formerly held in federal prison in Michigan on a bank robbery conviction. He was released in late 2008.
He became a suspect for a string of burglaries in the Venice area after getting in a bar fight. Upon further investigation, Venice law enforcement found a federal warrant accusing Smith of violating his probation on the 1995 bank robbery conviction and arrested him Sept. 11.
Searches of Smith’s home revealed items, such as laptop computers, that were identified as stolen by investigators. A DNA match later linked him to the Sarasota home invasions.
Smith is being held in Pinellas County on four counts of armed home invasion, five counts of false imprisonment and two counts of sexual battery and aggravated battery.
Anyone with information about Smith is asked to call the sheriff’s office at 861-4900 or leave an anonymous tip with Crimestoppers at 366-TIPS (8477).
Contact Robin Roy at [email protected].