William Devonshire was arrested Saturday in the death of 48-year-old Kelliann Ripley. Police say he's also suspected in a March 10 homicide.
A 52-year-old Sarasota man charged last weekend with murder in a February homicide case is a "strong suspect" in the March death of a second woman whose body was also found along Tamiami Trail, police said in a news conference on Monday.
William Devonshire was charged on Saturday at Sarasota County Jail in the death of 48-year-old Kelliann Ripley of Sarasota, whose body was found Feb. 25 in woods near the Centennial Park boat ramp in the 1100 block of Tamiami Trail.
Police on Monday said they think there is a connection between Devonshire and the death of a 59-year-old woman, whose body was found March 10 in the 1900 block of Tamiami Trail. Police have not identified that victim publicly, citing Florida victim's rights laws.
"We believe Devonshire is a strong suspect in that case,'' Interim Police Chief Rex Troche said in a news conference on Monday. "Sarasota Police Department believes these two homicides are connected. The facts and evidence in these two cases lead us to believe the cases are related."
Devonshire has not been charged in the March 10 homicide.
Troche said Devonshire had been under surveillance and was arrested Friday, March 25 inside Centennial Park on Tamiami Trail, a location from which he had been previously served a trespassing citation. In the course of officers speaking to Devonshire in the park on Friday, he was arrested on trespassing and drug-related charges and voluntarily agreed to a DNA swab, Troche said.
Evidence from that swab was connected by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to the Ripley case by Saturday and murder charges were filed on Devonshire who was already in custody. Though jail records included two different addresses for Devonshire, the police department lists him as a "transient." He's being held with no bond allowed.
"We had some information leading us to believe he could be our possible suspect, so we had surveillance on him while we were trying to work on the back end with respect to the DNA,'' Troche said. "So, once he went to a certain area of the city, in this regard, Pioneer Park, we had already known he was trespassed, so once he entered that park, we placed him under arrest."
According to the medical examiners' office, the cause of death was blunt force trauma and strangulation.
In a probable cause warrant affidavit, police reported that cell phone data was used to track Ripley's movements in the days before her body was found. Video evidence confirmed that at around 5 a.m., on Feb. 23, she was walking north on Tamiami Trail near Centennial Park, where her body was found two days later. Video evidence from a retail site also showed a man with Ripley, later identified as Devonshire.
As they crossed 10th Street, police reported, the security camera captured Devonshire pointing toward the park. They continued to walk north on Tamiami Trail toward the wooded area in which her body was found, covered with some branches, rocks and palm leaves. Among the evidence police said connected Devonshire to the crime scene was DNA gathered from one of the branches.
Devonshire was convicted of murder in a 2003 Delaware robbery and has a criminal history in New Jersey, Maryland, Indiana, Ohio, and in Sarasota, police said. Troche said Devonshire was not cooperating in the investigation.
Troche thanked the department's Criminal Investigation Unit, the Community Action Team, the Homeless Outreach Team and the Marine Patrol for their assistance, along with the FDLE and FBI for their technical assistance, the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office, the State Attorney's Office and the Attorney General's office.
"We want to send our condolences to the family who are mourning the loss of their loved one in this tragedy,'' he said, adding the family allowed the release of Ripley's name following the arrest.
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