Does This Man Look Familiar?
C’mon, Crime Fighters, Let’s Help Catch This Sexual Predator
Sixty-one-year-old Leslie Renald Lagrotta is on the lam. Worried that his penchant for raping women was about to be exposed, he emptied his bank account of $22,000 and disappeared. The last time anyone saw him was in Daytona Beach in 2010.
Police have been looking for Lagrotta for over a year. He is wanted for seven cases of sexual assault: three in Orlando, and four in Volusia County. They took place over a ten-year period – 1988 and 1998. The Volusia County sheriff’s office is offering a $25,000 reward for his arrest.
The Moves of a Predator
There’s no telling how many women Lagrotta sexually assaulted. While the last known link between Lagrotta and one of his victims was in 1998, his behavior afterward suggests that his known attacks were just a sliver of a much darker criminal scope. He was arrested in 2010 after he was spotted lurking outside a woman’s window in 2010. If he hadn’t been caught, what do you think would have happened next?
Lagrotta didn’t seem to care who or where he struck. He assaulted one woman as she walked on a beach. He snuck into woman’s homes and attacked. No one was safe.
Lagrotta not only sexually assaulted his victims; he terrorized them. He attacked suddenly, often using a blitz attack after hiding behind a wall, bush, or doorway and then surprising his victim. He would force them onto a bed or the ground, threatening to kill them during the entire experience. On at least one occasion, he used a knife to back up his threats, scaring his victim into complying. He assaulted some women multiple times.
Why the Wait?
In 2010, during the booking process, Lagrotta was required to give a DNA sample. Lagrotta realized what this meant in terms of foretelling his future. A relative told police that, after he’d made bail, he told a relative that he was skipping town because the DNA would land him in prison. None of his relatives have heard from him since.
It’s so easy to play Monday morning quarterback when a serial predator eludes justice for so long. Law enforcement certainly did many things right. A forward-thinking crime scene investigator preserved a latent palm print from the apartment window of a 1988 victim even though technology couldn’t do anything with it at the time. By 2005, though, the game had changed, and palm print comparison were legit. But why did it take until 2018 for the print to be sent to the FBI for analysis?
But let’s be positive. These crimes happened across jurisdictions. It took time to link these cases together. Detectives didn’t give up. In December of 2018, they began using another new crimefighting tool, genetic genealogy. They took Lagrotta’s DNA and methodically eliminated everyone else in his family tree. Then they began hunting for their man.
The Bottom Line
Now they need our help. Anyone with information about Lagrotta’s whereabouts is asked to contact the Central Florida Crimeline online or at 800-423-TIPS (8477), or to call Orlando detectives at 321-235-5300. Tips can also be provided to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office at 386-248-1777 or ColdCaseUnitTips@vcso.us.
Stay safe out there. And Happy Holidays.