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Sheriff: ‘Violent crime spree’ ends with arrest

By Staff | Jun 23, 2012

A man law enforcement officials say is responsible for a nine-day crime spree that included the abduction and slaying of a Cape Coral resident, was arrested Friday morning after he stabbed a woman, stole her car and then forced a teenage girl into the trunk.

At a brief press conference Friday, Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott announced the arrest of Antonio Thomas, 29, who faces a myriad of charges, including first degree murder, kidnapping, sexual assault and carjacking in connection with a number of crimes throughout Lee County.

Those crimes include five attacks on women including the deadly attack Wednesday in Cape Coral.

Officials say he approached Phyllis Stein, 61, of 150 S.E. 1st Place at about 3 p.m. as she was washing her new car.

He forced her into her vehicle; beat, assaulted and killed her; and then dumped her body behind the AutoZone on Bayshore Road in North Fort Myers, officials said.

Stein’s vehicle was found in the Dunbar area by Fort Myers Police Thursday evening.

“The message here is obvious. An extremely dangerous individual who, over the course of nine days, has ravaged innocent victims has been taken off the streets,” Scott said. “We want to reassure everyone, we’re much safer today as a result.”

Scott was joined by Cape Coral Police Chief Jay Murphy and Fort Myers Police Chief Doug Baker, neither of whom spoke, and Lt. Bill Kalstrom of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office violent crimes unit.

Scott said he couldn’t get into many specifics in the case because they were investigating other things. He added the crimes were random and that the accused, while he had a criminal record, had no violent crimes.

Most recently, Thomas, described as a transient, served more than two years in a Florida prison on drug charges.

“Something just snapped and we’re a better place today because he’s in jail,” Scott said.

Kalstrom said the spree started on June 13 with an attempted carjacking and robbery in North Fort Myers at Pondella and Orange Grove.

The victim fought off the attacker.

On June 15, a victim was kidnapped in front of an appliance story on N. Tamiami Trail and brought to Cape Coral, where she escaped.

On June 20, Stein’s body was found behind the AutoZone on Bayshore Road.

Officials say the crime spree in which Thomas is accused ended Friday in Fort Myers after he broke into a home in Dean Park, beat and stabbed a woman during that home invasion, stole a car, and then kidnapped a 15-year-old girl just miles away, forcing her in the trunk.

She was able to escape.

Fort Myers police found Thomas later that morning and took him into custody.

“These women were victimized during the day in front of businesses like nothing we’ve ever seen,” Kalstrom said. “We’re grateful for the cooperation of the three agencies and all the hard work everyone did to bring this to a quick end.”