Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater man plays along with intruder being chased by police

CLEARWATER — Joe Stillwell and his wife, Jen, were relaxing in their living room around 7:15 p.m. Wednesday when a man started pounding on their back door. Suddenly, he was in their house, having let himself in through an unlocked back door.

The man, later identified by sheriff's deputies as 23-year-old Nicholas Ryan Fox, originally demanded the couple not call police and told them to drive him to his address at 10572 Oakhurst Road, according to arrest reports.

He then "changed his story," reports said, telling them he was a crime victim who needed help and he would pay them to drive him.

But Joe Stillwell wasn't really buying his story.

"If someone was really in trouble like he was saying, wouldn't they come to the front door?" he said.

Stillwell, 33, who works for Pinellas County, said he remained calm, shared knowing glances with his wife and quickly formulated a plan.

"My goal was to play along with his story of needing help, to get him out of the house," he said.

What the Stillwells didn't know was that authorities were already searching for the man.

Deputies said that about 45 minutes before he showed up at the Stillwell home, Fox swiped a set of car keys off the bar at OZ Gentlemen's Club in Clearwater and stole a 2007 Buick from the parking lot.

As deputies searched for the Buick, Clearwater police spotted it on N Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. They said they saw the driver firing a handgun he found in the vehicle and began a pursuit.

The stolen car eventually crashed into a wall near Monterey Drive and Belleair Road and the driver ran, Pinellas deputies said.

He then sneaked into the unlocked back door of the Stillwell home in the 1600 block of Monterey Drive in unincorporated Pinellas, near Clearwater, not far from the crash scene, deputies said.

Stillwell said he and his wife always lock their back door when they sleep and when they aren't home, but leave it unlocked while they're awake so they can let their dogs into the fenced back yard.

It appeared the man scaled or jumped over their 6-foot wooden privacy fence to get into the yard, Stillwell said.

The couple's coonhound-German Shepherd mix, Bear, barked steadily at the intruder while he was in the house. Their older dog, a Labrador retriever-beagle mix named Maggie — "absolutely the worst guard dog ever made" — hid in the yard, he said.

While the man was in the Stillwell home, deputies and police had fanned out to look for him, using a Sheriff's Office helicopter and police dogs to assist in the search. Moments after Stillwell and the man walked out of the home and got into Stillwell's father's Pontiac sport utility vehicle, a Clearwater police officer approached with his gun drawn.

Stillwell put his hands up and got out. The man jumped into the driver's seat and took off, Stillwell said.

Authorities found the SUV abandoned at Antique Alley on Indian Rocks Road in Belleair Bluffs.

Witnesses told deputies that a man matching Fox's description lived in an apartment at 2645 Jewel Road in Belleair Bluffs. When deputies arrived, Sean Brown, 22, told them Fox was inside. Brown lives at the Jewel Road address, according to Pinellas court records. Deputies found Fox there and arrested him.

Fox faces charges of carjacking, burglary of an occupied dwelling, resisting arrest without violence, and violation of probation for robbery by sudden snatching. Records from the Florida Department of Corrections show that Fox was convicted of the robbery charge in 2009 and sentenced to a year and a half in prison.

He also has been convicted of resisting arrest without violence, battery, possession of marijuana, loitering and prowling, and felonious possession of a firearm, according to Pinellas court records.

Fox was being held Thursday without bail at the Pinellas County Jail.

Stillwell said he wished he had thought to turn off the ignition of the Pontiac and take the keys with him when he got out. Beyond that, he said, everything worked out for the best.

"My mission was accomplished. He was out of my house."

Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4157.

Clearwater man plays along with intruder being chased by police 07/07/11 [Last modified: Thursday, July 7, 2011 7:57pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Duke Energy Florida president answers questions about utility's response to Irma

    Hurricanes

    ST. PETERSBURG — After more than a week since Hurricane Irma knocked out power to millions of Floridians, Duke Energy announced it will finish its restoration efforts Tuesday.

    Duke Energy Florida President Harry Sideris greets St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman on Tuesday at a news conference where both spoke about Hurricane Irma recovery. The event was held at a Florida Department of Transportation lot next to Maximo Park in St. Petersburg, where the city is collecting Irma yard debris which will be mulched and sold to a local tomato farmer. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  2. Leaves, mountains, ice cream and cheese: What's not to like in Burlington, Vt.?

    Travel

    If I loved Burlington, Vt., during a visit with my daughter when the high was 37 degrees, I feel completely comfortable recommending the city as a great destination for fall, when it's considered one of the top leaf-watching spots in the world.

    Founded in 1791, the University of Vermont is the sixth-oldest college established in New England.
  3. Puerto Ricans in Tampa Bay wait with dread as Hurricane Maria approaches island

    Hurricanes

    TAMPA — As Hurricane Maria swirled in the Atlantic Ocean, Sarykarmen Rivera got a phone call from her parents in Puerto Rico. They had an ominous message.

    Sarykarmen Rivera sits for a portrait with a picture of herself and her family in her hometown of Guayama, Puerto Rico, while at the Univision studios in Tampa on Tuesday. Rivera's mother, father, and extended family are currently in Puerto Rico and she worries about their safety as Hurricane Maria approaches. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  4. Early estimates peg Hurricane Irma damage at as much as $65B

    Banking

    The damage totals from Hurricane Irma are still being tallied, but early numbers are in: As of Tuesday, the storm is estimated to have caused between $42.5 billion and $65 billion of damage. That's according to a Tuesday release by Irvine, Calif.-based analytics company CoreLogic.

    Hurricane Irma is estimated to have caused up to $65 billion in damage, said analytics company CoreLogic. Pictured is 
Hermilo Munoz Castillo as wades down a flooded street to check on his home in southern Collier County, Fla. after Hurricane Irma passed. | [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  5. Port Tampa Bay makes public/private commitment for $60 million expansion project

    Business

    TAMPA — Port Tampa Bay approved a public-private partnership agreement with four other entities to divvy up who will pay for a $60 million widening and extension of the Big Bend Channel.

    Port Tampa Bay approved a participation agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Florida Department of Transportation, Tampa Electric Company and Mosaic Company at the port's monthly board meeting on  Tuesday. Port Tampa Bay President & CEO Paul Anderson signs the agreement as Ram Kancharla; Port Tampa Bay's vice president of planning & development, Brandon Burch; project manager at United States Army Corps of Engineers, Lois Moore; of Alcalde and Fay and Charles Klug; Port Tampa Bay principal counsel, and Tim Murphy; deputy district engineer of the Army Corps., looks on. [Company handout]