TAMPA — When he was 12, Walter "JJ" Revear became the poster child for juvenile crime, charged with stealing a dozen cars and two armed robberies.
But a Hillsborough Circuit Court judge gave him chance at redemption, sentencing him to house arrest. His family, church and the community waited to see if he could turn his life around.
Then he made a mistake while helping out a friend of his foster family in 1999, and started a cycle of arrests and prison that he can't seem to escape.
On Tuesday, Revear was back in jail, charged with burglary of an unoccupied dwelling, third-degree grand theft and obstructing or opposing a police officer without violence. According to the Tampa police, he and three other men broke in and began stealing things from the home of Joyce Maxwell at 1501 E. Jean St.
A neighbor soon confronted the men and chased them out of the house after calling 911.
Police captured two suspects in the neighborhood and the other two in the parking garage at University Square Mall.
This is the second time Maxwell has been robbed in a month, after having her van and power wheelchair stolen and recovered on Dec. 5. Police are unsure if she is being targeted.
Revear knows the neighborhood. He was sentenced to serve one year of house arrest in 1996 at the Central Court Apartments — just 3 miles away.
Dee Ann Athan, a former public defender, said it's sad to hear that one of her nicest clients is in trouble again.
Revear was released from prison on Oct. 9 after serving five years for cocaine possession.
He's been arrested four times since 1996, the year the late Hillsborough Circuit Judge Diana Allen remanded him to the care of his grandmother, Helen Revear.
Athan said that after her diminutive client got the suspended sentence, he was picked up again on trespassing and car theft charges 1996, but acquitted.
After that, he stuck to his community supervision until he found himself back in front of Allen in 1997 for testing positive for marijuana at 15. His grandparents were ill and unable to handle him, Athan said.
"So she sentenced him to boot camp and he did really well," she said.
Revear was free again in 1998, and Athan worked with friend to find him a foster family.
Robert and Brenda Frusters, a couple connected to the Without Walls Church, took Revear into their Carrollwood home and enrolled him in a private church school. But while helping a friend of the Frusters clean out his garage, Revear pocketed a derringer and when he realized he had it, he gave it to his sister, Athan said.
When the gun's owner asked the Frusters about it, Revear confessed and the couple reported it to his probation officer.
That was the beginning of the end for him, Athan said.
Even though 50 members of the church and family came to testify about what a great kid Revear was, Judge Jack Espinoza Jr. sentenced him to two years in state prison.
"When he got out in 2002 he moved back to the projects and started to get into trouble more," Athan said. "I believe if he had been allowed to finish the 11th grade, we wouldn't be having this conversation."
He is held at the Orient Road Jail with bail set at $10,000.