COCOA, Fla. - Cocoa police admitted only to Eyewitness News that a breakdown in the department allowed a man accused of raping a mentally ill woman to freely walk the streets for a year before he was finally arrested.
Jermaine Smith is behind bars Friday, accused of breaking into the Cocoa home of a mentally disabled woman more than a year ago and sexually assaulting her.
"It shouldn't have taken a year to get the results back from the lab," said Officer Barbara Matthews.
Matthews said there was a breakdown in communications when the detective requested evidence be sent to the lab.
"The items were not immediately sent and when the detective followed up several months later, the mistake was discovered," Matthews said.
Police said once the detective realized the mistake the evidence was sent to the lab.
During all those months the homeless suspect was on the streets and was arrested for other crimes.
Cocoa Police met Friday to discuss the breakdown and are working on putting new procedures in place to prevent future mistakes.
Smith is in the Brevard County Jail charged with sexual battery and burglary.
Full Statement from Cocoa Police Department:
Good morning Myrt - You were correct - it shouldn't have taken a year to get the results back from the lab. Unfortunately there was a breakdown in communications when the Detective requested the items be sent to the lab. The items were not immediately sent and when the Detective followed up several months later the mistake was discovered. The items were then sent to the lab and were verified to have viable DNA. At that time the suspect's standards were sent and compared. Within hours of the Detective receiving the report from the lab, the suspect was in custody.
This incident has brought to light a flaw in our procedures. This morning, numerous members of the police department met to discuss this issue and are currently putting procedures in place so this won't happen again. In addition, Detectives are auditing their files to verify all items that they have requested have gone to the lab.
Smith is currently being held on a no bond hold for the sexual battery and $75,000.00 bond on the burglary charge. Smith was incarcerated on and off through the last year, you can pull his DOC records and get the dates.
Again, this was an unfortunate incident, and members of the Cocoa Police Department are working on the procedures so no further incidents of this type will occur.
Officer Barbara Matthews
Cocoa Police Department