|Published:||Jun 23, 2012 4:16 AM EDT|
|Updated:||Jun 23, 2012 11:52 PM EDT|
LEE COUNTY, Fla. - 29-year old Antonio Thomas is behind bars, linked to a rash of violent crimes across three jurisdictions that spans nine days. He faces a host of charges including kidnapping, rape, and murder charges.
Authorities say Thomas left a trail of violence throughout Lee County, picking female targets of all ages at random, and brazenly committing vicious crimes in broad daylight.
"This was an extremely violent individual," Lt. Bill Kalstrom of the Lee County Sheriff's Office said. "These women were victimized in the middle of the day in front of open businesses. It's nothing we've ever seen."
Investigators say Antonio Thomas' crime spree began June 13th with an attempted car-jacking at a 7-Eleven on Pondella and Orange Grove in North Fort Myers. The victim was able to fight him away.
But two days later, they say he struck again, this time, forcing a woman into her car at an appliance store on North Tamiami Trail in North Fort Myers, and beating her severely.
"She was able to jump out of the vehicle and free herself. The car was later found in Fort Myers jurisdiction," Kalstrom said.
On June 20th, 61 year-old Phyllis Stein was washing her new car at her home on SE 1st Place in Cape Coral when she was snatched from her driveway, raped and murdered, and left behind Auto Zone in North Fort Myers. Her husband tells WINK News he inside the home when it happened.
And on June 22, detectives say Thomas broke into a home in the Dean Park area of Fort Myers and beat and stabbed a woman before stealing her car. He is then accused of abducting a 15 year-old girl several miles away and forcing her into the vehicle. Fortunately, she was able to escape.
"Nobody's safe anymore," Mitch Kania of North Fort
Neighbors near the Auto Zone are relieved to hear Thomas was arrested, some saying, he deserves the death penalty.
"For a guy to go into one of the safest neighborhoods in Lee County, Cape Coral, and steal somebody out, and then kill her, I'm sorry, that guy is definitely a repeat offender," Kania said.
Antonio Thomas has a criminal past and has done prison time for drug crimes, but never for any violent crimes. Sheriff Mike Scott believes something snapped, leading him to pick his victims at random. But he wants to assure the community, they can sleep safely knowing Thomas is off the streets.
"This vicious individual, killer frankly, knew no boundaries," Scott said. "He's in custody where he belongs, caged like an animal, where he will remain."
Sheriff Scott said Friday's arrest was the result of a unified effort between the Lee County Sheriff's Office, Fort Myers Police, and Cape Coral Police.