A Keys jury has found a Homestead man guilty of kidnapping and sexual battery.
Duglas Hernandez Morel, 33, could face life in prison for reportedly kidnapping a woman from her ex-boyfriend’s house in Homestead, forcing her into his SUV and pulling over several times on his way south to the Keys to rape her.
The kidnapping charge is a first-degree felony punishable by up to life in prison. Sexual battery is a second-degree felony, carrying up to 15 years. Morel was also convicted Thursday night of driving with a suspended license – a second-degree misdemeanor.
Morel also faces charges in Homestead.
On Feb. 12, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office received a call from witnesses at Gilbert's Resort around mile marker 107 stating that a man forced a woman into a vehicle. The callers told dispatchers the woman was asking for help and they said the man threatened them with a baseball bat when they tried coming to her aid.
Witnesses said the man forced the woman back into the SUV and drove southbound on U.S. 1. Deputy Matt Koval spotted the vehicle at mile marker 102 and followed it as it turned left into Trade Winds Plaza at mile marker 101.4.
When Morel parked, Koval pulled behind him and saw Morel and the woman, 34, inside. The man was holding the woman by her hair and he was forcing her head up and down in his lap, Deputy Becky Herrin, the Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman, said.
Koval ordered Morel out of the SUV gunpoint. The woman, "crying and obviously afraid," according to Herrin, said Morel had kidnapped her from ex-boyfriend's house in Homestead. On the way south, he reportedly stopped several times to force her to have sex.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant State Attorneys Erika Isidron and Demetrios Efstratiou in front of Circuit Court Judge Luis Garcia.
Garcia ordered a pre-sentencing report from the state Department of Corrections. The report is expected to be completed within the next 30 days, Efstratiou said. Upon receipt of the report, Garcia will schedule a sentencing hearing date.