DNA on baseball cap solves 8-month-old armed robbery case

Terrified employee held at knifepoint, deputies say

By Erik von Ancken - Anchor/Reporter

DeBARY, Fla. - The night of Jan. 18 was one of the worst nights of a DeBary convenience store worker's life when a man came in with a 10-inch-long knife and his face covered with a towel.

The man threatened her with the knife and forced her to hand over $160 from a cash register in the Circle K on Dirksen Drive and then he rode off on a bicycle.

The clerk quit shortly after.

When Volusia County Sheriff's Detective Michael Cox got the case, he was determined to get results for the terrified woman.

"She was in fear for her life. I spoke to her," Cox said. "She did what he told her to do or she thought she was going to die."

But Cox had almost nothing to go on, except store surveillance video showing the covered-up robber and clothes dumped in the woods behind the store.

As Cox inspected the video, he noticed a barely visible logo on the robber's ball cap, it turned out be the Orlando Magic logo.

Cox said the pile of clothes contained an Orlando Magic cap. He also found a towel and a steak knife in the pocket of the pants; however, the knife didn't have any fingerprints on it.

"He did a fairly clean job. He wasn't touching anything in the store. He was having her do all the work so that's less physical evidence for us to go on," Cox said of the armed robber. "Right before he leaves the store he wipes the door handle down to make sure he didn't leave any fingerprints like that."

Cox sent the ball cap to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's state crime lab to search for DNA evidence and, if any DNA was found, the lab would also analyze it.

 "And then it became a waiting game but we weren't going to let it go, we weren't going to drop it," Cox said.

More than half a year later, Cox got a match.

The FDLE lab found that the DNA on the hat likely belonged to 25-year-old Trey D. Brown, of Sanford, according to Cox.

"At some point in time his profile had been given to the state of Florida, his DNA is in the database already, so they matched it up," Cox said. "That gave me a suspect to look at."

Cox said Brown matched the description of the suspect in the surveillance video and discovered Brown was a felon convicted of robbery.

That gave Cox enough probable cause to arrest Brown, eight months after the armed robbery.

To be sure he had the right man, Cox obtained a search warrant when he arrested Brown and took a DNA sample from Brown's mouth. Cox then sent that sample to the FDLE to check that it matches the DNA stored in the statewide database and the DNA on the hat.

"We wanted to make sure we were certain and to triple check everyone's work," Cox said. "We want to put people in jail but put the right people in jail."

Cox said if Brown is convicted, considering his past criminal history, he's looking at a lengthy prison sentence.

"Sure, armed robberies happen every day, but to the store clerk it was life changing; to her it might be the worst thing that ever happened to her," Cox said. "And to just leave that open could be devastating. At least we know we did our part getting her closure, getting her closure as best we can, and hopefully letting her move on with her life."

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