LUTZ, Fla. (WFLA) — A 24-year-old South Carolina man was arrested early Sunday morning for traveling to Lutz, Florida, and attempting to carry out a hostage scenario he had been planning for more than eight months, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said.
Deputies said Phillip A. Thomas II had been stalking a Lutz resident for the past few years on social media. Thomas reportedly admitted he traveled to Florida overnight with plans to take the resident hostage.
Property records show the home is owned by Daria Berenato, a former Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter and current World Wrestling Entertainment star, who goes by the ring name “Sonya Deville.”
The suspect reportedly parked his car at Idle Wild Church earlier in the night, walked up to the home in the Promenade at Lake Park subdivision, and cut a hole in the patio screen. Deputies said he waited there for about three to four hours, watching and listening through the windows.
After the homeowner went to bed, Thomas allegedly opened the back sliding glass door, which activated the home alarm. The resident looked outside the window and spotted an individual on the property, prompting them to flee the home in a car and call 911.
When deputies arrived, they found Thomas inside the home. He was reportedly carrying a knife, plastic zip ties, duct tape and mace. The sheriff’s office said Thomas admitted to deputies he was planning on taking the homeowner hostage.
“Our deputies are unveiling the suspect’s disturbing obsession with this homeowner who he had never met, but stalked on social media for years,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister. “It’s frightening to think of all the ways this incident could have played out had the home alarm not gone off and alerted the homeowner of an intruder.”
Thomas was charged with aggravated stalking, armed burglary, attempted kidnapping, and criminal mischief.