By Peter D'Oench

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The search for a home invasion suspect in South Miami has police headed upstate.

That’s because a man arrested for crimes in Central Florida may also be behind the attack on a woman in her home down here.

South Miami Police say their suspect was arrested in Titusville, for burglarizing an apartment in Casselberry and raping one of the women living there.

That crime happened last Saturday.

On Wednesday of this week, police say he terrorized a woman in South Florida who was a defenseless retired doctor, who is currently fighting cancer.

Melissa Selem says she is horrified by what South Miami police say the suspect did to her mother at her Kendall Drive home.

“It just makes me feel how can we be safe?” said Melissa. “How can we be on a porch and be assaulted? How is that possible?”

The crime took place around 3:15 p.m. on July 4th, after breaking into Melissa’s mother’s home at gunpoint.

“He wanted money,” Melissa said. “She didn’t have cash, so she offered jewelry instead and offered her car and showed him where the keys were.

“I’m sure she was terrified. She doesn’t even weigh 95 points. She’s a frail woman. She’s sick. She’s on chemotherapy, she has cancer.”

Police say it turns out the suspect seen in South Miami is 32-year-old Benjamin Hovan.

He was arrested in Titusville while pumping gas with a stolen car.

He was charged with breaking into the Casselberry apartment and holding two women at knifepoint, raping one of them before forcing them to drive him to an ATM for cash.

Spooky surveillance photos show Hovan peering through a window in Tallahassee.

A BOLO, or ‘be on the lookout’ bulliten, had been issued for him.

Melissa Selem says Hovan viciously attacked her mother, who was caught off guard while taking care of her cats outside her home.

“She said she begged him not to hurt her because she is frail,” Melissa said. “I assume he hit her with a gun because she has lacerations on her head and 3 staples here and bruises down the side of her face. She looks like she has bruising marks as well.”

South Miami police say surveillance cameras on Kendall Drive captured Hovan, and they put out their own BOLO as well, saying he had stolen a 2006 silver Mercedes Benz from the victim, as well as an expensive bracelet and ring.

“It’s a cowardly act,” said Captain Larry Corbin with South Miami police. “This was an elderly female cooperating with his demands and he felt it was necessary to pistol whip her in the head.”

South Miami neighbors were also alarmed at the crime.

“It’s crazy,” said Rafael Almendral, the victim’s neighbor. “I’ve been telling my neighbors there has not been anything here like this in 14 years.”

Melissa says her mother is trying to recover from this traumatic experience.

“She has a great love of cats and she rescues them,” she said. “She was minding her own business and trying to do some good. This is just awful.”

Melissa told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that she is relieved that an arrest has been made and said it was “scary” to think of the other crime he’s accused of in Central Florida.

South Miami police say Hovan is from Tallahassee.

They have no idea how he ended up in South Miami.

Detectives are on their way up to Casselberry to interview him and say they have recovered the victim’s Mercedes.


Peter D'Oench