South Carolina man accused of trying to kidnap WWE star
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — A South Carolina man who stalked a 26-year-old WWE star for years and spent eight months planning to kidnap her was arrested Sunday after breaking into her home near Tampa, sheriff’s officials said.
Phillip A. Thomas II, 24, of Cordesville, South Carolina, was arrested early Sunday for attempting to carry out the plot, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.
The sheriffs office did not identify the victim, but home where Thomas was arrested is owned by Daria Berenato, whose stage name is Sonya Deville. She performs for WWE and stars in the E! cable channel reality TV series Total Divas. She later tweeted a thank you message to the sheriff’s office.
Thomas faces charges of aggravated stalking, armed burglary of a dwelling, attempted armed kidnapping, and criminal mischief, and is expected to make a first appearance in court on Monday.
According to investigators, Thomas parked his car at a nearby church, walked to the home and cut a hole in a screen to enter the home’s patio, where he stayed for three to four hours watching and listening through the windows.
Thomas went inside the home through a sliding glass door at 2:43 a.m., after the homeowner had gone to bed, the release said. The alarm activated.
Sheriff’s officials said the homeowner looked out a window and saw Thomas before she left with a guest in a car. She also called 911. Thomas was still at the home when deputies arrived.
He had a knife, plastic zip ties, duct tape, mace and other items, and told deputies he was planning to take the homeowner hostage, the sheriff’s office said.
On jail records, Thomas is listed as an Applebee’s crew member. He was being held without bail and records don’t list a lawyer for him.
“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.”