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Family held hostage, father tortured in search for drugs

ST. PETERSBURG — A couple and their two children underwent a five-hour ordeal Monday, police said, after they were taken hostage by three armed men.

Their masked captors took them prisoner and used a hot iron to try to torture information out of the father, police said. They they shot him when he leaped through a glass window to escape and call for help.

The gunmen fled after the father escaped, leaving the mother and two children unharmed.

The father, Michael Mells, 32, is recovering in a hospital, and police are looking for the hostage takers.

Police said the armed invaders were looking for drugs.

"Based on information we received from the victims, this appears to be a drug-related issue," said St. Petersburg police spokesman Mike Puetz.

But police didn't say if the gunmen found the drugs they were looking for, or if they took anything from the home.

The incident started about 8 a.m. at 3998 53rd Ave. S, according to police. Mells and Cheryl Weaver, 32, live there with their two children: a 7-year-old girl and a 3-year-old boy.

Weaver was leaving for work about 8 a.m., police said, when she was confronted outside by three armed and masked men.

They forced her back inside the home at gunpoint and woke up everyone else, police said.

The men ransacked the house and used a hot steam iron to coerce Mells into giving them information. Police would not elaborate on what the gunmen wanted to know.

Then about 1 p.m., Mells made his escape, police said, by jumping through a closed glass window. His three captors opened fire multiple times as he ran to a neighbor's house, police said.

Mells was shot once in the hip but still managed to reach the neighbor's. The three gunmen all fled before police arrived.

Mells was taken to a local hospital; his wounds were not considered to be life-threatening. He was reported to be in stable condition late Monday.

St. Petersburg police are looking for suspects but did not release any more information about them or their descriptions.

Jamal Thalji can be reached at thalji@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8472.

St. Petersburg police ask anyone with information about Monday's home invasion incident to call them at (727) 893-7780. Anonymous tipsters can call (727) 892-5000 or send a text to (727) 420-8911.

Family held hostage, father tortured in search for drugs 10/05/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 7:22am]
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