Surveillance videos of kidnapping / sexual battery suspect
It was a warm and mostly sunny Monday on July 15, 2013, when a 5-year-old Bradenton girl was outside playing with another child in the Wayside Glen Mobile Home Park where she lived.
At about the same time, 38-year-old Dominick Hawkins was walking through the trailer park.
The 5-year-old was lured away from her playmate with a promise to buy her candy, the girl would tell investigators.
Moments later, video surveillance at the nearby India Bazaar store captured Hawkins and the victim as she picked out candy and he bought it for her.
Hawkins, the girl said, then took her to a vacant mobile home in the nearby Aloha Estates Mobile Home Park — today the site of a Wawa — where he held her against her will, choked and raped her.
Afterward, the girl said she was locked inside the mobile home but managed to escape by climbing out a window before running home to tell a family member.
Video surveillance again captured the suspect moments later, according to detectives, as he ran up to a moving Manatee County Area Transit Bus, pounding on the door and yelling to the driver, “I need to go to Sarasota.”
Now, nearly six years later, Hawkins is set to stand trial beginning Monday.
The victim — now 11 years old — is expected to testify against the man charged with kidnapping and raping her.
If convicted, as charged, of kidnapping a minor under the age of 13 and sexual battery of a minor under the age of 12, Hawkins faces life in prison.
Hawkins, now 41, has remained in custody since his July 17, 2013, arrest.
The case has been delayed repeatedly over the years.
“I am somewhat aghast that this trial has been lingering this long,” Circuit Judge Charles Roberts said during a hearing in the case on Tuesday.
Roberts was not the first judge to express those concerns over the years. Still, the trial date has been delayed 15 times.
Hawkins appeared in court Tuesday for the conclusion of a hearing in which his defense was trying to prevent the state from presenting statements made by the victim during a recorded interview following the rape and later made to detectives as she took them to where she says Hawkins raped her.
The jury will get to watch this recorded interview and hear detective Jaime Rivera recount how the girl directed them to the mobile home where she said Hawkins raped her. But it was not without hesitation or fear, Rivera explained on Tuesday, as he will again for the jury. With the girl afraid that the suspect would be in the mobile home, Rivera offered to carry her inside, he said.
“I cradled her facing me,” Rivera said. “As we were approaching, I knew she was afraid, because she would tighten her grip.”
The girl was able to point out the room where the rape occurred. Semen belonging to Hawkins was found on the carpet inside that room, the jury will learn.
The vacant mobile home was in such disarray that even Rivera could not tell what the room had been, other than to say it was not the kitchen or a bathroom.
In fact, the mobile home was among one of the majority in the northeastern section of Aloha Estates that was vacant or dilapidated at the time. On the day following the rape, the block was eerily quiet as the few residents peaked from the shadows.
The Wawa built at the southwest intersection of 14th Street West and 53rd Avenue West today sits at the scene of the crime. Wayside Glen and India Bazaar are both located just north of 53rd Avenue West across the street from one another.
The jury will not hear from lead detective Sgt. James Wischer, who died in January 2017 from brain cancer.
Delays will not be entertained this time around, and attorneys for both sides are preparing for the week-long trial to begin Monday with jury selection.
“This case is going to be resolved this trial period,” Roberts told them.
As of Tuesday, there was no potential plea agreement on the table, contrary to statements made by defense attorney Charley Demosthenous. Assistant State Attorney Ashley Dusnik said an offer would be extended a day or two after Tuesday’s hearing, but that it would call for much more prison time than the defense was asking.
Over the past nearly six years, plea hearings were scheduled four times for the case. Each time, Hawkins refused the plea agreement offered him. According to the previous prosecutor assigned the case, Cynthia Evers, it was Hawkins’ defense attorneys who have scheduled the hearings, despite the fact he has never wanted to accept the prison time being offered as part of a deal.
The state withdrew its last offer during at a October 2017 hearing.
The sheriff’s office didn’t make the case public for more than 12 hours after the kidnapping and rape as detectives worked to interview witnesses and gathered surveillance video footage. At a late-morning news conference on July 16, 2013, then Sheriff Brad Steube pleaded with the community to help identity and find the suspect immediately.
Steube also had words for the suspect, “We are coming for you, we are hunting you.”
Hawkins was taken into custody by Sarasota police in an area near the 500 block of Kumquat Court after they were called to investigate a suspicious person camping. Police had encountered Hawkins just before midnight on the night after the kidnapping and rape and cited him for illegal camping in a closed park, according to court records.
He agreed to speak with Wischer, and during a recorded interview at the sheriff’s office admitted to walking through the Wayside Glen Mobile Home Park, going to India Bazaar and buying candy for the victim.
But Hawkins claims that the girl had been at the store and asked him to buy him candy, and that after buying her the candy he left her at the store.
Wischer confronted Hawkins with some of the surveillance footage from the M.C.A.T. bus in which he was shown running north across 53rd Avenue West just west of 14th Street West, which he admitted was him, the detective reported.
But when the girl was pointed out behind him running across the street also toward her home, Hawkins insisted that he didn’t know she had been running with him.
Hawkins also denied being in the mobile home with the girl or raping her.
When asked about his orange T-shirt and the brown bag he was seen carrying when he tried to board the bus, Hawkins told Wischer he got rid of them. According to court records, the sheriff’s office recovered the shirt and the bag.
A few months before his arrest in this case, Hawkins was arrested on a charge of domestic battery against his wife that was dismissed. His criminal history also includes convictions for armed robbery and possession of cocaine with intent to sell.
Just a month before the kidnapping and rape, the sheriff’s office pursued potential child neglect charges against Hawkins after his then 4-year-old twin sons were found wandering in Oneco. Their mother had left the boys with Hawkins, who was said to have a drug problem at the time, while she went to a laundromat.
“The children were in hysterics, saying they had been with their father who had entered a home somewhere in the Oneco area, leaving them unattended outside of the residence,” a statement from the sheriff’s office said at the time. “Eventually the children wandered off, became lost and were located by (a woman in the neighborhood).”