St. Petersburg police link men to torture case, clothing store robbery

ST. PETERSBURG — In October a couple and their two children were held hostage for five hours while their captors tortured the husband, police said.

Earlier this month four armed men stormed into a clothing store, beat and tied up a store clerk and made off with armfuls of clothes, hats and shoes.

Now St. Petersburg police say the robberies are linked and on Tuesday arrested Tavaris Jerome Roberson, 22, and Leorn Lafrance Walden, 17, both of St. Petersburg.

Police first arrested Roberson last week on a charge of dealing in stolen property in connection with the Nov. 4 armed robbery. Four men took over M.J. Fashion at 401 34th St. S, police said. They tied and beat the clerk but failed to open the safe. They looted the store and stole the employee's car.

According to a search warrant, police found fingerprints belonging to 20-year-old Tyrone Rashard Joseph at the store. Police went to arrest him on Nov. 10 and also found Roberson with a pair of slip-ons from the store. Hence the stolen property charge.

A warrant said police found 121 baseball caps, 57 shirts, 20 pairs of shoes and 19 watches that were taken from M.J. Fashion. They also found items taken from the Oct. 4 home invasion: the title to a Lexus sport utility vehicle and two Samsung flat-screen TVs.

Police said the items were stolen last month from 3998 53rd Ave. S, by three masked men who surprised a couple and their two kids, held them captive and tortured the father with a hot iron.

The family's ordeal ended when the father leaped through a glass window to escape. His captors shot him, police said, then fled. The husband's wounds were not life-threatening, and the rest of the family was unharmed. Police said the robbery was drug-related.

After he was arrested, Roberson repeatedly passed himself off as his 16-year-old brother, police said. He spent five days as an adult in juvenile detention until his fingerprints gave him away, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. Roberson admitted posing as his younger sibling, according to his arrest report, to avoid a federal indictment out of Broward County for selling the drug MDMA, also known as ecstasy.

Roberson is charged with home invasion robbery, kidnapping, robbery with a deadly weapon, grand theft motor vehicle, dealing in stolen property and ID theft. He was transferred to the adult holding facility — the Pinellas County Jail — where he is now being held without bail.

Walden is charged with home invasion and one count of armed robbery, police said.

>>Fast facts

Information sought

St. Petersburg police are still seeking suspects in the Oct. 4 home invasion and the Nov. 4 clothing store robbery. Police are asking anyone with information to call (727) 893-7780. Anonymous tipsters can call (727) 892-5000 or text police at (727) 420-8911.

St. Petersburg police link men to torture case, clothing store robbery 11/16/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 16, 2010 11:46pm]

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