TAMPA — Attorney General Pam Bondi appeared in a Tampa courtroom Wednesday, recounting the fear and frustration she felt after a man twice showed up uninvited to her Tampa home and later sent her unsolicited text messages.
When William Norman Wilkes first banged on her door one night at 3 a.m., Bondi said she thought he was a different stalker — a man from another state who thinks he has a chip in his brain that only she can remove.
"When I called 911, I said, 'My stalker is trying to get in the house,' " Bondi said, "because I thought he was someone else at the time."
But Bondi, flanked in court by statewide prosecutors Nick Cox and Rita Peters, said she didn't know Wilkes. She said he showed up twice at her home and later sent her text messages expressing appreciation for her "physical attributes."
She has since learned that they attended the same high school. He was a year behind Bondi at King High School in Tampa, where she graduated in 1983.
Seated in court in restraints and an orange jail suit, Wilkes agreed to stay away from Bondi.
"If she don't want to see me, I don't want to see her," he said.
Senior Judge Christine Vogel granted Bondi's request for an order keeping Wilkes out of all places the attorney general frequents.
In court, Bondi offered more details about Wilkes' pursuit of her. The first time was March 19, when he showed up at 3 a.m., banged on the front door and tapped on a window.
"He was agitating my dog," Bondi said. "My dog in fact tore down my wooden blinds, which has never happened."
Before approaching, Wilkes had taken off a flannel shirt, folded it neatly and left it near a street corner, Bondi said.
She did not answer the door. A group of people walked by, scaring him away, Bondi said. He walked back to the street and picked up the shirt.
He showed up again a couple of weeks later and was stopped by a Florida Highway Patrol trooper on a security detail for the attorney general. Wilkes was taken into custody under the state's Baker Act, which allows people to be involuntarily detained if they are deemed a threat to themselves or others.
After Wednesday's hearing, Bondi said Wilkes was taken to the Gracepoint mental health center in Tampa. He was cleared to leave days later, but law enforcement was not notified.
Days later, Bondi was seated on an airplane when her phone buzzed. Wilkes was sending her messages through the Facebook Messenger application. She said she did not read them, blocking him before turning over the messages to investigators.
"The system failed him and it failed me," Bondi said. "I will protect myself. I don't want to hurt him. I don't want him to be hurt, but our system didn't work and that's why I had to get an injunction against him. He clearly needs help and I hope he receives it."
Wilkes remains jailed without bail on several charges, including stalking.
Bondi said she has dealt with stalkers from time to time, including the man who showed up at the capital at 4 a.m. complaining of a chip in his brain. When she called 911 about Wilkes, she thought he was that man.
The other man is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation, she said.
Contact Dan Sullivan at [email protected] or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.