Michael Jones: Where is the Rapist Now?

A 21-year-old woman named Inna Budnytska was raped, brutally beaten, and left for dead on the side of the road in Florida in late February 2005. The police investigation reached a dead-end very soon because she had no recollection of her attack. After following a few leads that did not lead anywhere and without the support of sufficient resources, the case was losing hope. However, little did the authorities committed to solving this contorted case know they were chasing after a serial rapist, Michael Lee Jones. ABC’s ‘20/20: The Woman in the Suitcase’ takes a deep dive into this evasive case of Inna Budnytska and throws light on the wrongdoings of serial rapist Michael Jones. Let us find out more about him!

Who is Micheal Jones?

Not much is known about Micheal Lee Jones beyond the scope of the case. He is described by the women he targeted and the police personnel as a massive black man with a great round belly. In a story called ‘The Case of the Vanishing Blonde’, written by Mark Bowden for Vanity Fair, he describes Jones in the following words, “His size was intimidating, but his manner was exceedingly gentle, even passive. He wore clear-rimmed glasses and spoke in a friendly way.” He was working at a company called ‘Ovations’ at the time of his arrest and was well-liked by his colleagues.

Jones had been staying at the Miami Airport Regency Hotel for almost a week before the attack. He was working with a food company named Centerplate which was running a food court for a boat show. On the night of the attack, he had entered the elevator with Inna at 3:41 am, which was also the last time she was seen on any of the cameras of the hotel. He was seen exiting the hotel at 5:28 am while towing a large suitcase alongside him. He returned to the hotel at 6:21 am and went on to join his friend for breakfast at 7:59 am in the restaurant.

While going through the footage, private investigator Ken Brennan’s sharp eye caught that he was rolling the suitcase in a manner that suggested it was very heavy. He was also leaving the hotel with a suitcase very early in the morning, without checking out, and did not have the said suitcase in his hand when he came back after an hour. The little hints combined with Brennan’s process of elimination zeroed him on Jones. After an arduous hunt for the man, Brennan found out that he was working in New Orleans. The lead did not sound as promising because Hurricane Katrina had displaced a lot of people, and they were presently a scattered community.

After a few days, Brennan was able to find someone who recognized Jones and gave him his name. He found a straw that could save his sinking ship and was finally able to locate Jones in Frederick, Maryland. Jones was very cooperative and forthcoming with the police. He denied the allegations of any rape and willingly gave his DNA sample. It was only after months when the DNA reports came back that the police knew they had found their guy. He was charged with a lot of felonies that included sexual battery and kidnapping.

Where is Michael Jones Now?

The case that the prosecutors were able to build was standing on flimsy grounds. Their primary witness, Inna, had blotchy memories due to the sustained trauma to her head, and the evidence that they gathered was only circumstantially incriminating. Jones was able to enter a plea deal to a lesser charge of sexual battery with a weapon and aggravated battery in exchange for having the more serious charges dropped. He was only sentenced to two years in jail. On the other hand, Brennan was convinced it wasn’t Jones’ only offense because of his cool-headed mannerisms. He was able to convince the Miami-Dade police to enter his DNA details into the national DNA database. Within a year, they found three new cases that Jones could be tied to.

One of the survivors was in Colorado, while the other two were in New Orleans. In 2008, when his Florida sentence was drawing to a close, he was called for trial in Colorado Springs. The women he had attacked boldly came out as witnesses in this case. Jones maintained his innocence throughout the trial but he was found guilty. He was given a term of 24 years to life for one count of sexual assault with force and 12 years to life for the second act of violent sexual misconduct. He is approaching 50 years of age and his first parole hearing is scheduled for October 2031. Michael Jones is one of the most dangerous felons in the Colorado prison system and it doesn’t seem like he will be breathing in any fresh and free air anytime soon.

Read More: Inna Budnytska: Where is Assault Survivor Now?