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It took three months for Alicia to feel ready to tell sheriff’s deputies that she had been raped by an acquaintance.

It took eight days for Pinellas investigators to close her case.

They didn’t interview the suspect. They didn’t arrest him.

Instead, they put Alicia’s case in an obscure statistical category that made it appear to have been solved.

The designation, called “exceptionally cleared,” is supposed to be used sparingly in circumstances where police departments have enough evidence to arrest someone but can’t for reasons out of their control.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office has used it to close some cases where it hadn’t identified a suspect, assigned a detective or even confirmed that a crime had occurred, a Tampa Bay Times investigation has found.

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