LARGO — Dennis Hobbs is a father who wanted to keep tabs on his 18-year-old daughter because he worried that she was skipping school, smoking and having sex with her boyfriend.
But when St. Petersburg police found Hobbs one night in spring 2010, he was inside his car dressed in black, wearing face paint and a wig, near the abuse shelter where his daughter had gone to live. Inside the car was a loaded gun and detailed notebooks recording her activities.
So, in an unusual case, Hobbs was charged with stalking his own adult daughter and this week went on trial.
It's a strange case because of the goofy wig and the face paint, but in other ways it relates to an issue every parent faces — how far do you go to direct a child, even an adult child?
Defense attorney Denis de Vlaming said Hobbs was simply concerned for a wayward child and wanted to prevent her from making bad choices. He said it would have been a crime for him not to help her.
But Assistant State Attorney Theodora Komninos said Hobbs crossed the line into a criminal case of stalking, and detailed how Hobbs kept approaching and bothering his adult daughter long after she asked him to stay away.
"What this case is about is control and limits," she said.
For her part, daughter Lyndsay Hobbs, now 20, testified that after she learned how her father was dressed in the disguise and near the shelter where she was staying, "I felt more scared for my life than I've ever been."
She said the incident made her fear that "I could have been kidnapped that night and sent anywhere in the world."
Hobbs is 60, and retired after working in computer programing and other technical matters for AT&T. He has no criminal record in Florida. He and his wife now live in Texas, but returned for the trial.
Lyndsay Hobbs is an artist who studied at the highly regarded Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota. But according to testimony this week, her father was concerned about her behavior when she was as young as 16.
He found a birth control pill in her room, disapproved of her boyfriend, believed she had been drinking and discovered risque comments she made on Facebook, which even she now acknowledges were inappropriate. She also was charged with shoplifting.
But prosecutors say Hobbs went too far. He came to see her at her job at a CVS against her will, and came uninvited more than once to her boyfriend's family's house, where she stayed for a time, witnesses testified. Lyndsay Hobbs testified that she got a temporary injunction against her father "because he would not leave me alone." She moved into an abuse shelter to get away from him, and because "I felt more safe there."
But he hired a private investigator and found her. He even knew somehow that she had bought a scooter while at the shelter, even though she never told him that.
He also wanted her to leave Ringling and move along with his wife to Texas, saying she could continue her studies there.
After Hobbs was arrested, police arranged for his daughter to make a secretly recorded phone call to him.
On the rather scratchy recording, which was played in court, she said she was scared of him because he kept stalking her. He denied stalking and said she had been lying.
"I just want to live my life," she said.
"You want to live a life of sex and drugs," he said. He told her he loved her.
"I think you want someone you can control," she said.
The case is expected to go to the all-female jury this afternoon.
Curtis Krueger can be reached at (727) 893-8232 or [email protected]