CLEARWATER — Jannie Young was tending to a sick grandson Monday morning when a man knocked on her front door.
"He says to me, 'I'm from the U.S. government and I'd like to look over your property.' I said, 'Do you have ID?' " Young recalled Tuesday. "I don't even know where that came from."
The man showed Young a Belleair Police Department business card.
But the 60-year-old retiree isn't easily fooled. Robbed at gunpoint as a teenager when she was working at Woolworth's, Young learned early to be aware of her surroundings, she said.
She noticed the man wasn't wearing any shoes. He seemed to be purposely concealing the name on the business card. And why would a police officer identify himself as a federal government employee?
"It was all of those things coming together," Young said Tuesday. "I thought, 'There's something wrong with this.' "
Young shut the door and called police, who arrived shortly and started searching for the man. Before long, they found Sterling Eugene Thurman, of 705 S Highland Ave., not far from Young's home.
Thurman admitted being at Young's Druid Road home, but denied impersonating a police officer and claimed he was looking for a friend, according to an arrest report.
The 37-year-old with a lengthy criminal history was charged with impersonating a police officer, a felony. On Tuesday, he was being held in the Pinellas County Jail in lieu of $5,000 bail.
It's unclear what Thurman's intentions were, but it's possible the woman averted a crime, Clearwater police spokeswoman Beth Watts said.
"She was very smart, and she realized something was not right and called police, which is what we always encourage people to do," Watts said.
Thurman has an arrest record dating to the late 1980s in Pinellas County. In 1990, he was sentenced to three years in prison after being convicted of burglary and grand theft auto. In 1993, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison for violating his probation on a conviction of possession of marijuana with intent to sell.
Thurman made headlines in Pasco County in 1996 when his infant son suffocated when he slipped between two mattresses on a school bus that served as a makeshift home for Thurman and his wife, Kellie Thurman.
The case was closed by the Pasco County Sheriff's Office when the medical examiner ruled the death an accident, according to Sheriff's Office spokesman Kevin Doll.
The Thurmans divorced in 1998, according to Pinellas County court documents.
Thurman was incarcerated between June 2000 and July 2003 after he was found guilty of violating his probation on convictions of resisting arrest with violence and felony driving while license suspended or revoked.
Rita Farlow can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4157.