Friday, January 19, 2018
Public safety

Deputies: Man critically burned trying to set estranged wife ablaze

CARROLLWOOD — No one knows how long he sat inside the green rental car and waited.

Authorities say Matthew Wong, 50, watched the door of his wife's apartment early Monday, waiting for her to step outside.

Thick, black garbage bags shrouded the backseat windows. A quilt covered the rear window.

"It appears it was all planned," said Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office spokesman Larry McKinnon. "He was waiting out there to ambush her."

What Wong hadn't planned on, deputies said, was getting caught in the flames that he had hoped would kill his wife, Gloria Davis, 47.

After residents of the Countrywood Apartments, 12401 Orange Grove Drive, helped extinguish the fire, Wong was taken to Tampa General Hospital just after 7 a.m. in critical condition, with third-degree burns over his upper body, McKinnon said.

The episode was still under investigation, and no charges had been filed Monday.

Davis was unharmed.

Wong's motives for attacking his wife were not immediately clear, McKinnon said.

The two have been separated since October, when Davis moved out of their Wesley Chapel home and into the Countrywood Apartments. Family members declined to comment.

Deputies would later discover a 21/2-gallon jug of gasoline in Wong's trunk, tape, a pair of gloves and bleach bottles believed to have been filled with an accelerant.

As Wong chased Davis across the apartment complex's front lawn, he pulled a Bic lighter from his pocket, officials said. Davis escaped by ducking into a neighbor's apartment, McKinnon said.

That's when Wong began setting bushes and grass on fire in an attempt to "smoke her out," McKinnon said.

In the process, Wong set himself on fire.

Amy Jo Akert, a 35-year-old dance teacher who lives across the street, said she woke up when she heard yelling and arguing. She didn't think much of it at first, since she lives near a school bus stop, but then, she said, she heard what sounded like a woman screaming "Help me! Help me!"

Akert said she looked across the street and saw a man standing on the ground and someone running upstairs. Someone screamed, "I'm going to kill you!" and suddenly, the man burst into flames.

"It was instantaneous," Akert said. "He just lit on fire. I don't even understand how."

Cristie Gibbons, 26, also called 911.

Gibbons, who lives on the ground floor of Davis' building, said she went to her bedroom window when she heard screams coming from outside.

"The bushes were on fire. The mulch was on fire, the grass, everything," she said. "I thought my apartment was going to burn down."

She called 911 as her husband, Aurelio Loza, 44, ran outside with a blanket.

"I saw the flames, but, at first, I didn't see the man," he said. "Once I did, I just grabbed the blanket and ran."

Loza was met by a man from across the street. Together, the two snuffed out the flames that engulfed Wong as he rolled on the grass.

Wong and Davis were married in 1985, records show, and have two sons, ages 25 and 18.

Wong was arrested on charges of domestic battery in 2000, but the case was later dismissed, according to court records.

Pasco County deputies most recently responded to the couple's Cross Creek Lane home in November 2010, but no arrests were made.

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Contact Marissa Lang at [email protected] or (813) 226-3386.

Comments

Four people linked to Tampa carjacking captured hours later

TAMPA — It took officers just 27 minutes Friday night to capture four people who they said stole a car from its owner.The incident started outside the Ybor Coffee Shop at 5:45 a.m. A group approached the driver as he sat in his 2010 Toyota Corolla. T...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Florida National Guard soldier killed, five injured in Sebring crash

SEBRING — A soldier with the Florida National Guard was killed and five others were hospitalized after a multi-vehicle crash on Friday, officials said.The crash took place at about 1 p.m. at the intersection of U.S. 27 and Hammock Road.The soldiers ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Two New Port Richey men accused of stealing $11,000 in cellphone merchandise

Two New Port Richey men accused of stealing $11,000 in cellphone merchandise

NEW PORT RICHEY — Two New Port Richey men face charges after Pasco County deputies say they stole about $11,000 worth of cellphones and cellphone equipment at a Metro PCS store on State Road 54.Robert Jackson and Ronald Hartshorn were arrested Wednes...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Autopsy: drugs found in MLB star Roy Halladay’s system after plane crash

Autopsy: drugs found in MLB star Roy Halladay’s system after plane crash

When former Major League Baseball pitcher Roy Halladay died in a plane crash in November, he had amphetamines, morphine and the sleep aid zolpidem in his system, according to an autopsy report.Halladay, 40, died from blunt force trauma with drowning ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Former youth football president accused of stealing $29,000 from Pinellas league

Former youth football president accused of stealing $29,000 from Pinellas league

PALM HARBOR — The former president of a local youth football league is accused of stealing thousands of dollars from the group and using it in part to buy a mobile home.According to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, deputies on Tuesday arrested L...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Rapper Kodak Black arrested in Florida on grand theft, other charges

Rapper Kodak Black arrested in Florida on grand theft, other charges

FORT LAUDERDALE — Rapper Kodak Black has been ordered held without bail in Florida on seven felony charges that include child neglect and drug possession.The Broward Sheriff’s Office arrested the 20-year-old rapper, whose real name is Dieuson Octave,...
Updated: 10 hours ago
DUI arrest: Tampa man mistakes bank drive-through for Taco Bell

DUI arrest: Tampa man mistakes bank drive-through for Taco Bell

SPRING HILL — A 38-year-old Tampa man was arrested Wednesday on a charge of driving under the influence involving drugs or alcohol after deputies said he mistook a Bank of America drive-through for a Taco Bell.The branch manager of the Mariner Boulev...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18
Police presence at Martin Luther King Jr. Day after-party raises ire

Police presence at Martin Luther King Jr. Day after-party raises ire

ST. PETERSBURG — One after another, speakers stepped to the lectern at City Hall on Thursday and described the same image: police cruisers on every corner in Midtown, uniformed officers lined up across the roadway, souring what should have been a joy...
Published: 01/18/18
Tropical Breeze patron rides shuttle to check on crew

Tropical Breeze patron rides shuttle to check on crew

PORT RICHEY — Loretta Santini was one of a small group of customers boarding a Tropical Breeze Casino shuttle Thursday afternoon as the company sailed for the first day since another of its shuttle boats burned to the water Sunday, killing one woman....
Published: 01/18/18
Police: ‘Man-bun bandit’ seen stealing packages from Clearwater home

Police: ‘Man-bun bandit’ seen stealing packages from Clearwater home

Clearwater Police are searching for a "man-bun bandit" who is seen stealing packages from a residence.Police on Thursday tweeted this video of the suspect, who is seen attempting to balance multiple packages while gathering them at a home on Majestic...
Published: 01/18/18