Accused held in sex assault faces hearing

A May 15 hearing will hopefully mark some progress in the complicated February 2017 case involving defendant Harry Page, a career criminal and registered sexual predator from Winter Haven, who has been linked by DNA to the brutal attack on a woman at Hightower Beach Park in Satellite Beach.

DNA evidence collected by the Satellite Beach Police Department was one of the key factors in the March 10, 2017 arrest of Page, who by that time was back behind bars on a separate charge, serving time in Polk County for failing to report as a sexual predator. Page’s E-Pass toll road records also placed his vehicle in Brevard County on the day of the crime.

Page, who is being held at Brevard County Jail, allegedly sexually attacked a woman reading a book in her car in the park, in the daytime. The case shares some things in common with a 2000 incident in Tampa in which Page was convicted of attacking an early-morning jogger.

In both cases, DNA evidence on file with the state linked Page to the crimes, but in the earlier case it took more than a year after the actual attack to make the connection. He ended up spending 13 years in jail for the crime.

The DNA evidence in the Hightower case was collected from the crime scene as a result of the Hightower victim fighting back.

The arrest warrant was issued in the case after Satellite Beach investigators received confirmation from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Crime Lab that evidence matched Page’s DNA profile. Page was arrested without incident in Polk County by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, who was working in cooperation with Satellite Beach investigators.

“There were several other factors that also linked the suspect in this case, but DNA was definitely the break we needed,’’ said Satellite Beach Police Cmdr. Brad Hodge.

Many years ago, DNA was an expensive investigative method used mostly in major cities and mostly in cases involving violent crimes. For a small agency like Satellite Beach, regular DNA collection and evaluation was not common and rarely done. However, the department trains all patrol officers on collection of DNA from major crime scenes, Hodge said.

“With the advances in DNA technology and the availability of private, accredited and affordable laboratories, its use in law enforcement – and certainly in our agency – is much more commonplace,’’ he said.

While it may seem like it is taking a long time for the case to go to trial, the wait is understandable because of the complexity of the case and the busy court system, Hodge said.

“We are always aware of the possible delays that come with trail prep, especially when it comes to a major case such as this one, and we know how busy the court systems are, so no, we are not surprised,’’ he said.

Added Satellite Beach Police Chief Jeff Pearson: “Yes, it was a lot of work and that, coupled with DNA, led to the arrest of the suspect. Cases like this very often take a long time. I’d rather it be slow and right than quick and wrong.’’

Page is being represented by Assistant Regional Counsel John Gray of Melbourne, who took over the case after the local public defender’s office recused itself due to a conflict of interest related to prior representation of a key person in the case.

For the prosecution, Assistant State Attorney Kathryn Speicher has been working on the case for State Attorney Phil Archer’s office. The 8:30 a.m. docket sounding next week will be held before Judge Nancy Maloney at the main courthouse in Viera.

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