NEW PORT RICHEY — Johnny Bowles was sitting on his front porch the afternoon of Sept. 20 when he heard the loud bang of a hammer on metal coming from his back yard.
He rounded the house and saw three people gathered around his Winnebago, the metal siding skinned off, exposing the motor home's guts. The metal siding and the radiator were piled in a trailer behind a gray sport utility vehicle. Bowles said he didn't know the man or the two women standing in his yard. He called 911 and told the intruders that he'd wait right there if he were them.
But they didn't. Deputies say Earl Squires Jr., 39, Tracy Clemons, 40, and a third unidentified woman jumped in the SUV and floored it straight at Bowles, who dashed out of the way. Bowles said he watched the SUV swerve out of his yard, the trailer "going like crazy" leaving a trail of metal in the roadway. And they were gone.
Pasco County sheriff's deputies took reports, but weren't able to track the suspects until Oct. 10 when Bowles spotted them at a BP gas station. He jotted down a tag number. Deputies traced the SUV, which is owned by Squires' father, and on Monday they arrested Squires Jr. and Clemons at their home in New Port Richey.
The two were taken to Land O'Lakes jail on charges of aggravated assault, grand theft and criminal mischief. They remained in jail Tuesday afternoon in lieu of $15,000 bail.
The third suspect remains at large.
Bowles said he'll have to trash his Winnebago. With the siding torn off, the radiator missing and parts of the stove gone from inside, the motor home is unsalvageable. Bowles, 49, a classic rock musician, has had the Winnebago for a few years and was planning to take it up north soon to see his mother. That plan has been scrapped, too.
"They just ruined it," he said. "I just don't understand why people have to do things like this. If those people would've came up and knocked on my front door, I would've helped them out in a heartbeat. All they had to do was ask."
Alex Orlando can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6247.