Aug 16, 2020
Marc RaimondiESPN Staff Writer
A man was arrested Sunday on a kidnapping charge at the home of WWE star Sonya Deville.
Phillip A. Thomas was arrested and charged with three felonies — attempted armed kidnapping, armed burglary and aggravated stalking — at a home in Lutz, Florida, according to police. Thomas is also being charged with misdemeanor criminal mischief. He is being held without bond.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office announced the arrest but did not release the homeowner’s name. ESPN confirmed via public records that the home is owned by WWE’s Deville, whose real name is Daria Berenato.
Police said Thomas had been planning the alleged crime for eight months. Sheriff Chad Chronister said Thomas stalked the alleged victim «on social media for years.» According to a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office news release, Thomas entered the home at 2:43 a.m. ET Sunday, after the homeowner went to bed, through a back sliding-glass door.
The entry triggered an alarm, which led to the homeowner looking out the window and seeing Thomas on the property. The homeowner and a guest fled the house in a car and called 911. Thomas was still inside the residence when officers arrived, according to the release. He was carrying a knife, plastic zip ties, duct tape, mace and «other personal items.»
The release said Thomas cut a hole in a patio screen earlier in the night and remained there for three to four hours, watching and listening to what was happening inside the home through the windows. Thomas went to Florida from his home in South Carolina, telling deputies that he planned to take the homeowner hostage, according to the release.
«Our deputies are unveiling the suspect’s disturbing obsession with this homeowner who he had never met, but stalked on social media for years,» Chronister said in a statement. «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. Our deputies arrived within minutes and arrested this man who was clearly on a mission to inflict harm.»
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Deville addressed the incident on social media Sunday, saying it was a «very frightening experience but thankfully everyone is safe.»
Thank you everyone for your love and concern. A very frightening experience but thankfully everyone is safe. A special thank you to Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office for their response and assistance. 🖤
— Daddy Deville (@SonyaDevilleWWE) August 17, 2020
Thomas, 24, is listed on his jail records as being an Applebee’s crew member. Berenato, 26, is starring on WWE’s «SmackDown» on Fox as well as the E! network reality show «Total Divas.» The New Jersey native is the first openly gay female wrestler in WWE history.
Berenato, a former MMA fighter, has been with WWE since 2015. Asked for comment, WWE referred to Deville’s statement on Twitter.
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