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Florida Man Serving Time For Killing Two Is Now Linked To A Cold Case Rape

The woman told investigators in 1995 she had been walking to a friend's house when she was grabbed by a man, dragged into a grassy area and raped. Authorities say Octavio Berrera is responsible.

By Jill Sederstrom
Octavio Berrera Pd

A man behind bars for killing two people has now been linked to a 1995 cold case rape.

Octavio Berrera III was serving time in a state prison for vehicle manslaughter after running over and killing two people when detectives with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office linked the 46-year-old through DNA to a 1995 unsolved rape, according to a statement from the sheriff’s office obtained by Oxygen.com.  

A woman told police that she had been walking to a friend’s house when she was grabbed by a man, who dragged her into a grassy area near the Palm Beach International Airport and raped her, according to The Palm Beach Post.

The attacker then threatened to kill her if she went to authorities and told her he had seen her before in her front yard.

She was able to break free and escape, according to local station WPEC.

The case went cold until 2018, when investigators said a search of the CODIS DNA database led to “an investigative lead” that pointed toward Berrera.

In November, investigators secured a warrant for Berrera’s arrest on sexual battery charges. He was returned from state prison to Palm Beach County on Sunday, according to the sheriff’s office.

Berrera pleaded guilty in 2003 to two counts of vehicular homicide and one count of tampering with evidence after authorities said ran over two people with his van.

Firefighter Peter Firehock, 48, and Beth Nowell, 34, were both killed. Authorities at the time believed that Firehock had come upon Berrera as he was disposing of Nowell’s body and purposely ran him over, the local paper reports.

Berrera is currently being held at the Palm Beach County Jail.

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