Within two years of Sara Lynn Wineski being strangled, sexually assaulted and killed in South St. Petersburg, police identified Raymond Samuels as a suspect.
With no living witnesses, though, and only scant DNA evidence linking Samuels to the homeless woman’s 2005 death, investigators didn’t have enough to make an arrest.
By that time, Samuels, 31, already was serving a lengthy prison sentence in Ohio — 29 years for kidnapping, attempted murder, aggravated burglary and trying to escape. So detectives kept working the case, stayed in touch with Wineski’s family and piecing together more evidence as DNA analysis became more sophisticated.
Eventually, they compiled enough to charge Samuels in Wineski’s death. Now, he’s being extradited from an Ohio prison to the Pinellas County Jail to stand trial for first-degree murder.
“We were able to put the case together through forensics and had enough to charge him,” said Maj. Mike Kovacsev of the St. Petersburg Police Department.
“We were able to take our time. There was no threat to the public because he was serving time in Ohio.
“We just made sure we had enough.”
Forty-nine-year-old Wineski’s body was discovered on May 22, 2005, under a secluded wooden deck of what was then a Ronald McDonald House, at 702 Eighth Ave. S. She was sexually assaulted and strangled there, according to police, who said Wineski had been dead for less than 24 hours when she was found.
Someone staying at the Ronald McDonald House reported hearing screams about 11 p.m. the previous evening.
Investigators found Samuels’ DNA at the crime scene. After tracking down Samuels, who has been in prison since 2006, detectives tried to interview him, but he refused, Kovacsev said.
At the time, police thought the same man who attacked Wineski was also responsible for two other sexual assaults in the Campbell Park area; but investigators concluded Samuels, who was only in St. Petersburg for 30 or 40 days, was not a suspect in those cases, Kovacsev said. They do suspect he may have been involved in a sexual assault and battery that happened in northern St. Petersburg about that time, but police don’t have enough evidence to arrest him in that case, Kovacsev said.