Crime

Masseur arrested on sex charge

MANATEE — A 27-year-old woman was sexually battered during a massage session this week, according to a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office arrest warrant released Thursday.

James R. Winters, 46, was arrested after detectives had the woman place a controlled phone call to Winters on Tuesday. He has been terminated from Massage Heights, 5275 University Parkway.

According to reports, Winters was arrested Tuesday after showing up at the woman’s place of employment.

Authorities said there could be other victims.

“We don’t know if there are any other victims, but we’re not ruling out the chance there could be more,” said Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Dave Bristow.

“Whenever you have a case like this, there’s always a potential for other victims.”

After the incident, “she was in a state of shock and did not know what to do,” according to the warrant. “The victim was frozen on the table and wanted to get up and run, but could not move.”

Paul Esper, owner of Massage Heights in the new University Center shopping center, said Winters was fired this week and had worked for him for five months.

“He was newly licensed. (Massage therapists) go through a background check to get a license from the state of Florida,” he said.

“Nothing like this has ever happened here before. It’s a very upsetting situation. ... We run a professional therapeutic massage re- treat and we’re an up- scale spa environment and it’s very upsetting this would happen to any of our guests.”

A background check on Winters showed two previous arrests. In September, he was arrested on child abuse charges by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, but the charges were later dropped.

In Sarasota, Winters faced charges of battery in 2001, but the charges were also dropped in that case.

He bonded out on a charge of sexual battery Thursday night on a $250,000 bond.

Anyone with any information can contact the sheriff’s office at (941) 747-3011.

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