Thursday, August 20, 2020

Sonya Deville Testifies At Hearing For Kidnapping Suspect, Details On Bizarre Messages He Had Sent

Sonya Deville Testifies At Hearing For Kidnapping Suspect, Details On Bizarre Messages He Had Sent
Sonya Deville testified at a pre-trial bail hearing for Phillip Arnold Thomas II earlier today.

Thomas, a 24 year old from Cordesville, South Carolina was arrested this past weekend after breaking into Deville's Lutz, Florida home to abduct her.

As noted, Thomas was found in Deville's home by police, in possession of a knife, zip ties, mace, duct tape, a window punch, and other items. He has been charged with Attempted Armed Kidnapping, Criminal Mischief, Armed Burglary of a Dwelling, and Aggravated Stalking. Thomas was assigned a public defender on Monday, and has invoked his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

Regarding the charges against Thomas, Aggravated Stalking is a third degree felony in the State of Florida, while Armed Burglary of a Dwelling is a second degree felony, Armed Kidnapping with Ransom or Reward or Hostage is a first degree felony, Criminal Mischief for $200 or Less is a second degree misdemeanor. Thomas actually has a $250 cash bond on the misdemeanor but there are no bonds on the felonies. Thomas could face up to 15 years in prison or probation for the burglary charge, up to 5 years in prison or probation for the stalking charge, and up to life in prison or probation for the kidnapping charge.

Thomas was not present in the court room today, but he did appear via video monitor from another room, where he was alone and in handcuffs, according to PWInsider. The hearing was to decide whether Thomas will be granted a bail and be able to post bond while he waits for trial. The video stream from earlier ended before Judge Catlin, out of Tampa, could make a ruling, but current Hillsborough County Jail records show that Thomas remains incarcerated with no bond. Court records look like they will be updated tomorrow morning with the official result of the hearing as it took place at 4:30pm ET and ended after business hours.

Regarding Deville's testimony, she recalled how she was asleep in her master bedroom when her security system alarm went off. Mandy Rose was asleep in the guest bedroom when Deville woke her to tell her the alarm went off. Deville then turned the alarm off and entered the kitchen. She turned the lights on and looked out a sliding glass door that she usually uses to enter the house. That's where she saw a man dressed in black, wearing a mask outside. She asked the man, "What the f--k are you doing?" The man just looked at her, with a deadpan expression on his face, and then approached her. Deville at that point knew the man wasn't trying to rob or burglarize her home, but was there to harm her. She ran out of the kitchen, to the room Rose was in, got her and they ran to the garage with Rose's cell phone and car keys. Deville's garage was down the hallway from the guest bedroom, so they would've ran into Thomas if they went the other way. Deville said she hopped in Rose's car but couldn't get it to start because she was so freaked out that her foot was on the gas, not the brake. Rose was able to start the car with the manual start button, and they drove through the neighborhood while Rose called 911.

Deville said she and Rose then returned to her home after a friend told them that a deputy had arrived. The deputy asked them to wait and when back-up arrived, deputies entered Deville's home through the garage and then returned several minutes later with Thomas. Deville identified him as the same man she encountered, and the same man she saw on her security system video monitor while in the car. Deville testified that Thomas never had permission to enter h er home, and that she had no communication with him before this night.

Prosecutors aired video footage of the incident to the court, showing Deville looking through her doors and then running out of the kitchen. A man could be seen dressed in all black, entering the house and following the same path that Deville took, exiting out of the same kitchen door.Deville was shown photos of items that were not in her home until Thomas broke in, including the various items he was caught with.

Deville was asked about checking her Instagram inbox after deputies gave her Thomas' name. She testified that after searching his name, she found hundreds of messages from him, where he had threatened her life, the life of her baby niece, and specifically threatening to decapitate her ex-girlfriend. Deville testified that Thomas also threatened to sexually assault her and that the messages were sent over a period of many, many months. As noted, Thomas told police that he had planned the kidnapping 8 months ago. Thomas sent messages under his real first name on Instagram, using his own face as a picture, but he also used a second account with the name "Phil" with no photo, and a third account using a different name.

Deville confirmed that the last message she received from Thomas came shortly before he broke into her home. He then stated that she should look outside because he was at her swimming pool, and he was going to "kill that b---h" that was in the home with her. Deville was given copies of the messages, which she testified to recognizing from Instagram. Thomas' court-appointed lawyer tried to object that the messages could not connect Thomas but prosecutors argued that the last message placed Thomas at the scene of the crime and that additional testimony from a detective would link the two together. One of the last messages specifically stated Deville's home address, which backed up the claim by prosecutors.

The judge began reading through the messages so that they were not read aloud for public consumption, out of concern for any personal information about Deville that the messages may contain. Judge Catlin did make a reference to Deville's ex-girlfriend Arianna, and WWE announcer Vic Joseph, who Deville identified as a co-worker and one of her best friends.

Thomas also threatened the lives of every living relative in Deville's family, including her mother, sister, nieces, and ex-girlfriend. Deville testified that one of the messages included a threat that Deville needed to have sex with Thomas, or he would release her address to the world. The threats from Thomas claimed he could walk next door to her house, and that he could kill people to show Deville that he was serious. He also said in a message, "Tick Tock when will the fun begin?"

Thomas also threatened to show up at a WWE event to find Deville, according to her testimony. Thomas said it wouldn't matter if she was backstage, he would get to her baby niece and force her to perform sex acts on him, and force her to do those acts inside the WWE Performance Center.

Deville testified that her ex-girlfriend was so frightened of the messages she received, that she deactivated her own Instagram account. She also said she received a message saying the only way to save her family was to have a sexual relationship with him, and that he was coming to see her, wearing a mask. Deville also testified that Thomas sent one message saying that he was coming to see her and talk in person because she was ignoring him, warning her that he was going to "get what I want" and would make her regret the fact that she was ignoring him.

In another message Thomas said he would be attending SummerSlam with Deville as her boyfriend. Deville explained to the court what SummerSlam was, and how it was WWE's second biggest event of the year, and that she and Rose would be wrestling each other on the show. That's the point where the court video stream ended.

As noted, Deville received a temporary injunction against stalking violence to keep Thomas from her earlier this week. A hearing is scheduled later this month to make that a permanent injunction, but it looks like Thomas will be kept behind bars until trial.

Court records note that Thomas worked at a local Applebee's where he lives, and drove his green, two-door 1997 Ford Thunderbird from his home in Cordesville, SC to Deville's home in Lutz, FL this past weekend. He parked in the parking lot of Idlewild Church off Dale Mabry Highway and Van Dyke Road, and then walked to a nearby subdivision where Deville's home is. Thomas cut a hole in her patio screen and waited for hours, watching and listening through windows while Rose and Deville reportedly watched UFC 252. Thomas watched as Deville went to bed, then came into the house around 2:45am, which triggered the alarm as mentioned above in the incident recap from Deville's testimony. Thomas admitted to police that he planned to take Deville hostage. He also admitted to planning the crime for the past 8 months.

Police said Thomas remained in the house after Deville and Rose left in the car, thinking they were upstairs hiding.

"The defendant admitted that his intention was to take Mrs. Berenato hostage by spraying her (with) pepper spray, binding her hands with the zip ties, and wrapping duct tape around her arms to prevent from fighting back," the injunction motion from prosecutors said earlier this week. "He stated that he intended to keep Mrs. Bernato hostage, preventing her from attending a planned event schedule for the following week, and that he was not going to leave her residence without her answering all of his questions."

Deville and Rose are currently feuding on WWE TV but they have been friends for some time. They will wrestle each other in a "Hair vs. Hair" match at Sunday's WWE SummerSlam pay-per-view.

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