‘No longer poses a risk:’ Records show ‘brutal rapist’ arrested in Orange County was released in May

Bruce Whitehead, 54, accused of raping, mutilating a woman

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Following the arrest Thursday of a man accused of raping and mutilating a woman in Orange County, News 6 gathered court documents that show he was released from a state facility for sexually violent offenders earlier this year.

Whitehead, 54, is accused of raping and mutilating a woman Saturday, prompting a manhunt for his arrest, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

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Whitehead — a registered sex predator — was eventually caught Thursday morning after the sheriff’s office received a tip.

Court records collected by News 6 show in 1987, Bruce Whitehead was found guilty after taking a woman from her car into the woods at knifepoint, raping her repeatedly and then stabbing her 25 times.

A judge sentenced Whitehead to 40 years in state prison for attempted murder, armed kidnapping and sexual battery in Duval County, records show. News 6 could not immediately confirm whether Whitehead received any gain time credit to reduce the length of his sentence, which was originally scheduled to end in 2027.

Following psychological evaluations in 2007, Florida state officials asked that Whitehead be committed under the 1998 Jimmy Ryce Act, court documents revealed.

Bruce Whitehead, 54, was arrested Thursday after receiving a tip from a resident around 7 a.m. in the area of Landstar Boulevard and Weatherbee Road, the sheriff's office said. (Orange County Sheriff's Office)

The act allows state agencies to screen sexually violent predators and determine whether they should be civilly committed to the Florida Department of Children and Families upon completing their sentences.

“(Whitehead) suffers from a mental abnormality and/or personality disorder which makes him likely to engage in acts of sexual violence if not confined in a secure facility for long-term care, control and treatment,” state officials wrote at the time.

In 2009, court records show Whitehead was committed and held at the Florida Civil Commitment Center, or FCCC, a privately run mental health and corrections facility under contract with DCF that is located in DeSoto County.

According to the DeSoto County Clerk of Court, Whitehead was found guilty in 2015 of attacking FCCC staff during his time at the facility and was sent back to state prison for a little more than two years.

In May 2022, Whitehead’s attorney filed a motion asking for Whitehead’s immediate release from FCCC. The motion said experts retained by Whitehead and the state determined Whitehead was “safe to be released.”

On May 13, Circuit Judge Robert Foster ordered Whitehead’s release, writing that he “no longer poses a risk of re-offending such that he is safe to be released,” court records show.

About seven months later on Dec. 11, Orange County Deputy Kyle Cole wrote in an arrest warrant affidavit that Whitehead is “a threat to the safety and welfare of the citizens of the community.”

News 6 has since reached out to Whitehead’s retained expert — psychologist Dr. Robin Wilson — who previously determined that Whitehead was fit for release. Wilson replied that he had no comment on the incident.

For Saturday’s attack, Whitehead faces charges of sexual battery with a deadly weapon/physical force, attempted felony murder with a weapon, armed kidnapping, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and robbery with a deadly weapon.

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About the Authors:

Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter Mike DeForest has been covering Central Florida news for more than two decades.

Anthony, a graduate of the University of Florida, joined ClickOrlando.com in April 2022.