SAN CARLOS PARK — At 13, Dustin Jaye got caught stealing.
For the next six years, law enforcement arrested Jaye on theft and burglary charges at least four times in Southwest Florida. Justice officials tried juvenile detention, controlled supervision, jail and prison. Nothing kept Jaye out of trouble.
Ten years after his first arrest, officials say Jaye's latest heist — boosting about $1,000 and jewelry from a San Carlos Park woman's home — took a violent turn, one that could result in a murder charge.
An arrest report released Wednesday details substantial evidence against Jaye, 23, and his uncle, Billy Ray Retherford Jr., 42, the North Fort Myers men accused in the death of 55-year-old Debra Striano. Deputies said Striano was found July 24 in the master bedroom of her Three Oaks neighborhood home, dead of a deep cut to her throat.
The arrest report lays out physical evidence — bleached and bloody clothes, burned shoes, a checkbook belonging to Striano found in Retherford's house — as well as witness statements that connect the two suspects to Striano's death. Lee County Judge Leigh Frizzell denied bond Wednesday to Jaye, noting "the evidence of guilt is great" during Jaye's first appearance. Retherford remains at large.
Jaye didn't speak at length during the hearing, responding "yes ma'am" when asked two questions. Detectives said Jaye qualifies as a habitual felony offender.
Records show Jaye is well-known to local law enforcement, with 12 arrests in the past 10 years on charges ranging from criminal mischief to burglary to felony battery. Jaye's maturation from teen to adult plays out in mug shots, starting as a 13-year-old with a tuft of dyed-blond hair and ending as a strong-jawed murder suspect.
His lengthy rap sheet begins with an arrest in August 2002, when Lee County sheriff's deputies picked him up for larceny and grand theft. At age 14, he battered a law enforcement officer. At age 16, deputies arrested Jaye for burglary, larceny, criminal mischief and marijuana possession. One year later, Cape Coral police scooped up the 17-year-old for burglary and giving law enforcement a false identification.
As an adult, Jaye has been arrested at least eight times. In July 2007, Jaye and two other men broke into a Cape Coral home and stole a 42-inch flat screen television and a PlayStation 3 console. He spent about a year in prison after pleading no contest to burglary of a dwelling and grand theft.
Jaye's first and only proven violent offense came in March 2009, when the then-20-year-old attacked a man outside a Cape Coral 7-Eleven. An arrest report said Jaye knocked the victim to the ground and punched him, before getting up and kicking the victim in the face. A witness told police the attack was unprovoked. After a no-contest plea, he received nearly three years in prison.
None of Jaye's crimes, however, compare to the accusations he now faces.
Witnesses told deputies that Jaye and Retherford planned to rob Striano after learning "there was supposed to be a substantial amount of cash" at her home, the arrest report said. Jayne found Striano's address on the Lee County Property Appraiser's website, witnesses told deputies.
When Striano's live-in boyfriend, Russell Myers, briefly left, Jaye and Retherford went into the home and killed Striano, escaping with cash and several other items, deputies said. Myers said in an interview Tuesday that was gone for about 20 minutes, getting gas.
Blood was found on drawers of nightstands and dressers, as well as clothing inside the drawers.
Detectives later searched Jaye's home, finding a towel, orange T-shirt and pair of partially burned sneakers hidden inside an air conditioning vent. The tread of Jaye's shoes matched one of two bloody footprints found at the scene, deputies said.
In Retherford's home, detectives found a fanny pack containing a checkbook and two bank deposit stamps belonging to Myers and Striano, the report said. A velvet Crown Royal bag holding rings belonging to Striano, bloody clothes and a shoe with treads matching the other bloody footprint were also seized, the report said.
Family members of Jaye and Retherford couldn't be reached for comment. Jaye hasn't yet obtained or been appointed a lawyer.
Anyone with information about Retherford's whereabouts is asked to call the Lee County Sheriff's Office at (239) 477-1000, or to remain anonymous and be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-8477.