County man arrested for rape in Florida

Published 5:19 pm Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The man wanted for the rape of a female minor in Hancock County has been found in Florida.

Bryan Mitchell, 41, was found Friday by members of the U.S. Marshal’s Tampa Bay area Fugitive Task Force, asleep in his vehicle.

Hancock County Sheriff’s investigators have been looking for Mitchell, of the Picayune area, since May 15 for the alleged rape of a 15 year-old girl, said Investigator John Bunce. To stiffen the penalty, the charge of rape has been brought against Mitchell as opposed to the charge of statutory rape. Bunce said if convicted, the rape charge could bring a maximum sentence of life; statutory rape would carry a maximum sentence of 30 years, he said. Bunce said the stiffer charge was filed against Mitchell based on evidence found in the case, although he could not go into detail on that evidence. Bunce did say that investigators still need to get Mitchell’s side of the incident, which will be collected after his extradition from Florida to Hancock county.

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Even though Mitchell was listed with a residential location of Picayune, Bunce said Mitchell apparently was living in his vehicle.

According to the [ress release, Hancock County investigators obtained information that Mitchell had fled the area so they requested assistance from the U.S. Marshals Gulf Coast Regional Task Force in Gulfport. Officers with the task force had obtained further information that Mitchell could have gone to the Tampa, Fla., area and they contacted officials in that area, the release states.

At about 11 p.m. Friday, task force officers found Mitchell’s vehicle parked at a rest area located on Interstate 75 in Pasco County, Fla. Mitchell was asleep in his vehicle when task force officers found him and was taken to the Pasco County Jail.