Tampa man guilty after rape kit gets tested 30 years later

Hillsborough County

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A 60-year-old man has been found guilty of raping a young Hillsborough County mother more than 30 years after the crime, authorities said.

It was the middle of the night on Nov. 15, 1988 when someone broke into the woman’s home, took a knife from her kitchen, then went to the couch where she was sleeping and held the knife to her throat.

Deputies say the man sexually battered the woman twice and threatened to stab her son if she screamed or fought back. Then he left her home undetected.

Investigators collected the knife as evidence and the victim had a sexual battery examination, but the rape kit sat untested and the case went cold.

In 2017, the kit was one of thousands of unprocessed sexual assault kits to be tested and authorities were able to develop a DNA profile of the suspect.

The case was reactivated and Phillip Coward, 60, of Tampa, was arrested for the rape on June 11, 2018.

On Wednesday, he was convicted on two counts of sexual battery with a weapon.

Coward is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 13, 2020.

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