SANIBEL, Fla. — Robert Thomas, 61, is the suspect in four rapes that happened across the State of Florida in the late 90s, including one in Sanibel.
Several agencies worked together and used DNA evidence and ancestry services to link Thomas to these crimes.
The rape in Sanibel happened in 1999, and after comparing notes, local police tipped Pinellas County Sheriff's Office about their case.
"The circumstances of the rape was similar to the beach rape that occurred here in Pinellas." said Bob Gualtieri, Pinellas County Sheriff.
It took detectives decades, but they were finally able to track Thomas down by using genealogy services like Ancestry.com to match his DNA.
It's a tactic that one local private investigator says is valuable to police when available.
According to the Pinellas County Sheriff, DNA evidence only started being collected by law enforcement in 1994.
"DNA evidence is extremely important these days in law enforcement." Walt Zalisko, a retired police chief.
Thomas is being held in the Berrien County Jail and faces Sexual Battery charges.
The plan is to extradite him to the State of Florida.