Police: Sexual predator accused of killing woman, leaving her body near busy Orlando road ‘should have been in jail’

ORLANDO, Fla. — A registered sexual predator who police say reported the death of a woman in a wooded area near a busy Orlando roadway earlier this year is now facing charges related to her death.

Police said the suspect should have been in jail all along.

Orlando police said James Gafford, 55, reported the death of a woman whose body was found in a wooded area just west of north John Young Parkway on April 21.

READ: Woman’s body found in woods in Orlando

Investigators said they later learned Gafford met the woman, identified as Kaitlyn Emery, 29, at a bus stop two days prior. They said he went into that wooded area and killed her.

Police said Emery lived in Manatee County for several years, but that she and Gafford were both transients.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement records show Gafford was convicted of raping a woman in 2001 in Miami-Dade County and has moved around the state over the years.

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In Orange County, records show Gafford has failed to report where he lives at least two times, which is a requirement of his sex-offender status.

“We’re dealing with a guy that probably shouldn’t have been out of jail,” said Lt. Frank Chisari with Orlando police. “He probably should have been in jail, a place where he couldn’t have hurt anyone.”

Gafford is facing a charge of first-degree murder. Police said he is being held at the Orange County Jail without bond.

Police said the case is the 11th homicide solved by the department this year.

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Stay tuned to Channel 9 Eyewitness News for updates.

Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.