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Bound with tape and robbed, war veteran tells how he escaped

GULFPORT — Louis Fierro, an 81-year-old Korean War veteran, had just settled down on his front porch when his next-door neighbor's son arrived.

The visit wasn't unusual. He sometimes paid Nathan Rewerts, 24, to cut his grass. But the unannounced drop-by Friday evening quickly became unwelcome — and harrowing.

From his living room couch Sunday afternoon, Fierro recounted how a young man he trusted bound him with rolls of tape and took his car, and how left all alone he freed himself from the sticky constraints to summon help.

"Like a mummy," Fierro said, "he wrapped me up."

Arrested later in Pasco County, Rewerts faces several charges including kidnapping, vehicle theft and home invasion robbery. He was awaiting extradition to Pinellas County, Gulfport police said. Records show he had no criminal past in the state until this incident.

It began Friday evening, Fierro said, when Rewerts followed him into his Gulfport Boulevard home and asked if he had masking tape.

Seconds later, Rewerts forced Fierro, who uses a walker to get around, to sit on the tan living room couch, binding his hands and feet with medicinal tape snatched from a nearby table.

Rewerts then carried Fierro into the bedroom, tossed him on the bed and then rummaged in the garage for yet more tape, Fierro said. Rewerts returned with several more rolls: masking tape, Gorilla tape, painting tape.

He wound it around Fierro's hands, arms, and feet. He tied Fierro's hands to the headboard. Then he tied Fierro's feet to a table at the foot of the bed.

Rewerts stole his wallet and keys, Fierro said, and drove off in his 2013 silver Chevrolet Camaro.

Fierro waited for his friend and caretaker, John Goude, to arrive and rescue him. Two hours passed. He grew restless. He started pulling on the tape.

"I was able to stretch and stretch and pull. Finally, I got that down," Fierro said. "I managed to get my teeth around one of the tapes and started unwinding it."

With his hands now free, he untied his feet and reached for a phone to call 911. But before leaving, he said, Rewerts had disconnected all of the phones.

Fierro wobbled outside without his walker and waved at passing cars for help. No one stopped.

Back inside, he found the cables to one phone, managed to connect it, and dialed 911.

Police called Goude. There was a robbery at Fierro's home, they told him. Come quickly.

"I didn't know what to think," said Goude, who had visited him earlier that afternoon. "I didn't know if he was dead or alive."

When Goude arrived, Fierro was sitting in his front porch as detectives trudged in and out.

Hours later, the Florida Highway Patrol and the Pasco County Sheriff's Office located the Camaro, which was equipped with OnStar safety and navigation service. Rewerts was arrested near the Flying J truck stop at Interstate 75 and State Road 52.

The car was not damaged. Fierro recovered his wallet and credit cards, but $200 and his debit card were gone, he said.

A woman at the home of Rewerts' parents declined comment.

Three days after the robbery, Fierro says he can't sleep. At the mention of the robbery, his voice cracks. Dark bruises linger on his slender arms.

"I'm lucky I got out with my life," Fierro said.

News researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

Bound with tape and robbed, war veteran tells how he escaped 11/03/13 [Last modified: Sunday, November 3, 2013 10:48pm]
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