David Goodhue, FL Keys News, December 15, 2017
A six-person jury took about an hour and a half Thursday to find John Lee Hayes guilty of rape, kidnapping, theft and aggravated battery in a March 2016 case that shocked the Upper Keys due to its randomness and brutality.
Hayes, 56, is accused of lying in wait in the woods for the 39-year-old victim as she walked along a tree-lined sidewalk on her way to Dillon’s Pub and Grill in the Tavernier Towne Shopping Center shortly after 9 p.m. March 13, 2016. The woman, who this newspaper will not name because she is a rape victim, lived nearby and decided to walk instead of drive to the bar to meet a co-worker and his girlfriend because she knew she’d be drinking.
Hayes is convicted of popping out of the woods, punching the woman and dragging her behind the trees, where he viciously beat her and then raped her.
“That was his plan,” Winter said. “Stealth, darkness, ambush and attack and flee. Period.”
Once in the woods, Hayes forced the woman’s face into the ground. She inhaled dirt and dust as he repeatedly punched her, breaking her eye socket, jaw and several ribs. This was before the rape began.
During the rape, he “told me to kiss him like he was my boyfriend,” the woman testified on Day 1 of the three-day trial. When he finally stopped, the woman, who does not have children, fabricated a story that she did and had to get back to them. 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 prosecutor Colleen Dunne. “I was just going with it. I didn’t want to die.”
When it was over, Hayes told the woman to wait 15 minutes before she left the woods. He told her he didn’t want to kill her but warned her he’d raped six other women before. Hayes also took about $100 from the victim.
After Hayes departed, the woman crawled in the pitch dark trying to find her pants, underwear, shoes and cell phone. Of these items, she was only able to locate here pants and one shoe before limping her way to the Tavernier Towne parking lot.
Klara McGary, bartender and manager at Dillon’s, was called by a colleague after 9 p.m. who wasn’t feeling well. She agreed to come in and relieve him of his shift. Right after she arrived in the parking lot and exited her car, she saw the victim, who was so disheveled and badly beaten that McGary did not recognize her despite having waited on her several times in the past.
Finding the rapist was a top priority for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. While sexual assaults are not rare, random rapes are, especially in the Keys. Detectives got their break two months later after an DNA taken from the victim’s body partially matched Hayes’ DNA, which was in the system because he is a nine-time convicted felon.
When Hayes took the stand to testify in his own defense, he told his attorney, public defender Jerome Gilhooley that the truck shown on the Dunkin’ Donuts footage was his. Hayes said he was in the Upper Keys because he had a doctor’s appointment in Homestead March 12 and decided to stay the night after doing some yard work at this sister’s house.
On the way into the Keys, he said he stopped off at the Last Chance Saloon in Florida City to get a bottle of Bacardi rum. He said his next stop was in front of the Made to Order restaurant on the ocean side at the south end of the Tavernier Creek bridge. He said he was going to fish underneath the bridge.
In rambling, often incoherent testimony, Hayes said that as he was emptying out an iced-tea bottle to make room in it for the rum, a drunk woman, who he said had the same name as the victim, came out of nowhere and came on to him physically and asked him for cocaine.
Hayes, who is a convicted drug dealer, said the woman gave him $60 and he went to his truck to drive off and score some cocaine for her. But he said when he got to his truck, the woman was gone. He said he traveled back across the bridge to Tavernier Towne so he could find her and return the money, but she was not there.
Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia, who presided over the the trial, is scheduled to sentence Hayes on Jan. 30 at 3:30 p.m. Hayes is facing life in prison for the rape charge.
“He will be leaving prison in a box,” State Attorney Dennis Ward said.