ST. PETERSBURG — The driver of the car wore black face paint and a black long-sleeve shirt, police said. Inside the car, police said they found a wig, a video camera, a loaded gun and a notebook detailing a young woman's whereabouts. An officer stopped the car after he saw it traveling suspiciously around a women's shelter.
Police say it's a case of stalking. The accused is a 59-year-old man. The alleged victim: his 19-year-old daughter.
That April 14 incident was one of several encounters St. Petersburg police said they had with Dennis Hobbs. After an investigation, he was arrested two days later on a misdemeanor stalking charge. The St. Petersburg Times is not identifying the daughter.
The father told police that he was trying to protect his daughter, that he feared her life was in danger because she wasn't making the right decisions. He has pleaded not guilty in the case.
"He had reason to believe she was going wayward," said the father's defense attorney, Kym Rivellini. "He was just concerned for her safety."
But the daughter told police that her father believed she was violating his religious beliefs, so he was following her around, harassing her and making her feel "trapped" by his behavior.
Tensions between father and daughter had been on the rise since July 2009, police said. The daughter told police that he wouldn't let her out of his sight, according to court documents, and even installed a dead bolt on their front door but didn't give her a key.
It got worse when she turned 18, she said. She moved in and out of her parents' house. She ultimately moved to the shelter, near where her father was pulled over on April 14. Police said the father also had two weeks of records detailing his daughter's movements collected by a private investigator he had hired.
The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office has decided to prosecute and filed official charges on Aug. 17. Details about the case were revealed in a search warrant obtained Wednesday by the Times.
When police asked Hobbs why he was armed, he said he feared for his daughter's safety. "When he heard that she was living in a very-high crime area," Rivellini said, "he was extremely concerned for her physical well-being."
In June, Pinellas Circuit Judge Peter Ramsberger issued a restraining order barring the father from contacting his daughter for six months.
"I've got no doubt that dad loves his daughter and wants what's best for his daughter and thinks she's making bad decisions," the judge said at a court hearing.
Then he added: "But on the other side of the coin, when our kids reach a certain age, there's only so much we can do ... but we don't paint our faces up and go out at 10:30 at night with a gun in the car."
Times staff writer Rita Farlow contributed to this report.