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Lutz man gets 10 years in prison for fiery murder attempt

Erik Limas pleaded no contest to charges of attempted murder and arson as part of a plea deal.

Erik Limas pleaded no contest to charges of attempted murder and arson as part of a plea deal.

BROOKSVILLE — Erik Limas doused the yellow pickup truck in gasoline alongside a rural road in eastern Hernando County. It covered everything, including the passenger, Luke Griggs.

Griggs just sat there, resigned to death. He didn't even move when John W. Thornton, an acquaintance and former roommate, started shooting at him.

Five shots from Griggs' own silver revolver, the one he recently had replicated in a tattoo next to the words, "This is mine, where's yours."

One bullet hit Griggs' shoulder. As Limas put a lit sock to the gasoline, he thought Griggs was dead.

Not quite.

Griggs suffered burns to 45 percent of his body, but he survived.

From his hospital bed, he told investigators about the March 16, 2007, plot to kill him on the side of an isolated road in eastern Hernando County.

Four people were arrested in the attempted murder conspiracy. And now more than a year later, the case is nearing conclusion.

On Thursday, Limas, 23, of Lutz was sentenced to 10 years in prison as part of a plea deal. Thornton, 29, received the same sentence in February.

Limas' deal spares him life in prison. He pleaded no contest and was adjudicated guilty on charges of attempted murder and arson. Prosecutors dropped two related charges of kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder. His sentence includes five years of supervised probation.

In a letter Limas wrote to Circuit Judge Stephen Rushing in March, he said he was not the mastermind. "I feared for my life that day," he wrote in pencil on lined notebook paper. "I had no intentions of causing any harm."

He added, "It's a nightmare I relive every day. I would give anything for that day to never have happened."

Prosecutors acknowledged that Thornton hatched the plot after Griggs stole money from him but dismissed Limas' contention that he didn't know what he was doing.

Limas' case was headed to a jury trial Monday. Prosecutor Don Barbee said he was prepared for trial, but acknowledged that Griggs is "not an overly sympathetic victim" after his arrest in Texas on drug trafficking charges.

Only one other case, that of alleged accomplice Carleen Troyer, remains unresolved. Bradley House, who was charged as an accessory after the fact, received three years' probation in August.

Barbee said Griggs wanted to see Troyer and Limas prosecuted but not Thornton. Known as "Poet," Thornton was the ringleader of a secret Gothic group called "the Society."

According to newly released investigative documents, the loosely organized group included most of those involved in Grigg's attempted murder. They frequented Nightmoves and the Castle, two clubs in Tampa where they allegedly dealt an assortment of drugs, including cocaine and ecstasy.

Those close to the group told investigators that initiation involved a sword and beating someone up.

Barbee said Griggs wanted to be a member of the Society and didn't want to hurt Thornton. "He thought it would be detrimental to becoming a member," Barbee said.

John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6114.

Lutz man gets 10 years in prison for fiery murder attempt 05/01/08 [Last modified: Thursday, May 1, 2008 7:11pm]
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