Police, deputies looking for man accused of 7 rapes in Orlando, Volusia County

The suspect has been linked to seven rape cases over a 10-year period

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Orlando Police Department and the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office are looking for a man they believe raped seven women between the years of 1988 and 1998.

The law enforcement agencies are looking for Leslie Lagrotta, 61, and the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office is offering a $25,000 reward for information that leads to his arrest.

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“You’re looking at a serial rapist,” Sheriff Mike Chitwood said during a news conference Thursday. “You’re looking at a predator. You’re looking at a guy who stole from these women. He stole their sense of self-being when he committed these horrible, horrible acts, and then like the coward and the scumbag that he is — he’s disappeared.”

Investigators said that four of the rapes took place in Volusia County and the other three took place in Orlando.

Orlando police detective Michael Fields said Thursday that he began looking at the cold cases in Orlando in 2018, using a process called forensic genetic genealogy. He also said that he sent a latent palm print that was collected in 1988 to the FBI for analysis, something that could not be done when the print was originally collected.

“If you can think about 1988, there was no use of the palm prints in the use of crime-solving. It wasn’t until 2005 that the use palm prints became a tool for us to use,” Fields said.

The palm print, which was found on a window that was used while breaking into a victim’s apartment, came back as a match for Lagrotta, Fields said.

“We were able to take that information and focus in on his family and use the genetic genealogy to eliminate everyone else in his immediate family by the use of certain search warrants, consent and other means to get DNA from family members to show that the only person that could have done this heinous crime was Leslie Lagrotta,” he said.

Lagrotta was arrested in 2010 and was charged with resisting an officer with violence in Daytona Beach. Fields said prior to Lagrotta’s arrest he was caught outside of a woman’s window. The officers chased Lagrotta and fought with him prior to his arrest, the detective said.

The accused rapist had to submit a DNA sample following those charges, according to investigators.

Police said after that he cleared his bank account and stopped contacting family members.

“When he learned that that was going to happen, this feckless coward took $22,000 out of his bank account and fled,” Fields said. “The last thing he told one of his relatives is ‘The police are going to get my DNA. I need to leave town. I’m going to go to prison.’”

Fields said it is likely Lagrotta has left the state of Florida and possible that he left the United States, though there is no evidence that he has left the country.

The detective said he believes there could be more victims of Lagrotta out there, but that the seven rapes are the only ones investigators have been able to connect through science.

Anyone with information about Lagrotta’s whereabouts is asked to call Crimeline at 1-800-423-8477.

About the Authors:

Christie joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021.

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com. He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.