A judge sentenced a Marathon man accused of randomly attacking and raping a woman in Tavernier in 2016 to life in prison Tuesday afternoon.
John Lee Hayes, 56, had nothing to say after Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia sentenced him to life for rape and kidnapping and 15 years for aggravated battery. A six-member jury convicted Hayes on Dec. 14.
The March 2016 case shocked the Upper Keys because of its brutality and randomness.
During closing arguments in December, Assistant State Attorney Val Winter said of the attack: “There are crimes that deflate the human spirit. This one questions its very existence.”
Sheriff Rick Ramsay made finding the suspect a priority. His detectives got their break just two months after the attack when DNA taken from the victim’s body partially matched Hayes’ DNA, which was in the system because he is a nine-time convicted felon.
The woman, who this newspaper will not name because she is a rape victim, was walking from her home near mile marker 90 on the ocean side of U.S. 1, to Dillons Pub & Grill in the Tavernier Towne shopping center at mile marker 91.2 bayside, to meet a co-worker and his girfriend for beers. The woman opted to leave her car at home and walk since she and her friends planned on drinking that night.
Before crossing the Tavernier Creek Bridge, she stopped by the Old Tavernier Restaurant & Lounge for a beer and to say hi to some bartenders she knew who worked there. But she decided to leave after peaking inside and seeing it was too crowded to find a seat. She crossed U.S. 1 on the southern end of the bridge.
Once across the bridge, she rounded the bend of the highway, which runs alongside a wooded area, and approached the shopping center. This was just after 9 p.m. — moments before Hayes emerged from the bushes and dragged her into the woods.
“All of the sudden, I just see eyeballs coming out of the bushes,” the woman said during the December trial. “I said, ‘What are you doing?’ He said, ‘You know what the f--- I’m doing.’ ”
Her attacker threw her to the ground, punched her and pulled her into the woods. She fought back, she told prosecutor Colleen Dunne, but the more she resisted, her attacker responded with harsher blows from his fists. She was briefly knocked out, but woke up face-down to the ground, inhaling dirt, with Hayes on her back, punching her again.
Hayes, she said, then flipped her over and raped her. During the attack, he “told me to kiss him like he was my boyfriend.”
When he finally stopped, the woman, who does not have children, fabricated a story that she had a child she had to get back to. Hayes, the woman said, asked her where she lived. Not being able to think of a lie on the spot, she told him.
“He told me he’d done this to six other women,” she told Dunne. “I was just going with it. I didn’t want to die.”
David Goodhue: 305-440-3204