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Riviera Beach man arrested after teen sexually assaulted more than 20 years ago in West Palm Beach

Kit tested, helping lead to suspect
Lawrence L. Love
Posted at 9:42 AM, Jan 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-17 19:47:05-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The West Palm Beach Police Department said a Riviera Beach man was arrested Wednesday in connection with a sexual assault of a teen that occurred more than 20 years ago.

"It's obviously shocking to the victim to hear from law enforcement after so many years," said Sgt. David Lefont with the West Palm Beach Police Department.

Sgt. Lefont said the incident occurred Dec. 29, 1998 when a 15-year-old victim met a man at a convenience store located at 10th Street and North Tamarind Avenue.

After accepting a ride from the suspect, Lefont said the man drove her to the 800 block of 7th St., where she said he held her against her will and sexually assaulted her.

For years, police said the case went cold but was reactivated after the testing of a sexual assault kit in April 2017.

This helped investigators develop a suspect in the case, identified as Lawrence Love, 51, of Riviera Beach.

"Because the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office has allowed us to take our more than 350 kits to the Sheriff's Office, now they're actually developing the lead and telling us, 'hey, this is a case you need to reopen.'" said Sgt. Lefont. "So we’re actually working backwards but it's actually faster."

Florida passed legislation in 2016 that provided funding to state labs to start testing thousands of untested and backlogged rape kits.

Lefont said the victim was interviewed last month and identified Love as the suspect from a photographic lineup. Love later surrendered himself at the Palm Beach County Jail.

He was booked at 6:56 p.m. Wednesday and faces a charge of sexual battery on a victim 12-17 years of age.

On Thursday morning, Love waived his first appearance and was not present in court.

A judge denied him bond, and also ordered that he have no contact with the alleged victim or anyone under the age of 18, and ordered him to not possess any weapons.