Monday, January 22, 2018
Public safety

Suspects in Seffner clerk beating arrested in Broward

TAMPA — For eight days, a pair of escaped convicts traveled across the country and committed a series of crimes, authorities in two states said.

In Wisconsin, they stole four cars and kidnapped a woman. Four days later, the pair viciously beat and robbed a 71-year-old store clerk in Seffner.

On Wednesday, police caught up to James Newman and James Misleveck.

The pair's final pit stop: the jail.

Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office detectives traveled to Broward County on Wednesday to slap Newman and Misleveck with charges related to the brutal assault of the elderly store clerk who remained Thursday at Tampa General Hospital in critical condition.

Newman, 29, and Misleveck, 18, began their road trip from the Black River Correctional Center, a minimum security facility in Black River Falls, Wis., where the two met, said the facility's superintendent, Dave Andraska.

Misleveck was serving three years for car theft and arson. Newman was serving three years for firing a gun into his girlfriend's home.

They were last seen at the facility on July 17 at 11 p.m. After their escape, the men broke into a car and stole ammunition and a shotgun and drove off in another stolen vehicle, said Sgt. Pat LaBarbera of the Jackson County Sheriff's Office in Wisconsin.

They headed to the Ho-Chunk casino where they confronted a woman going to work there at 5:30 a.m. at gunpoint, forced her back into her car, and drove off, LaBarbera said.

For the next few hours, Newman and Misleveck drove to two Walmarts with their captive as they searched for another getaway car. She was not harmed.

At a nearby factory, the men let the woman go after stealing $500 from her. She immediately called police.

Patrol cars were soon chasing them on the highway, but Newman and Misleveck abandoned the car in a cornfield and ran off, only to steal yet another car.

"Law enforcement wasn't able to catch up to them," LaBarbera said.

They traveled about 1,500 miles south to Florida, where they found Hasimbhai Indawala alone on Sunday night at the U.S. 92 Convenience Store at U.S. 92 W and Kingsway Road.

Threatened with a knife, Indawala opened the cash register and handed over $300 before he was thrown to the ground and beaten in the head and stomach, Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies said.

The convicts drove off in a dark-colored Chrysler Concorde. They headed farther south.

On Thursday, a printout of the convicts' mug shots was taped to the counter at the U.S. 92 Convenience Store. Customers walked in to ask about Indawala's recovery.

A family member working at the store said Indawala was improving at the hospital, but declined to elaborate.

He asked people to keep the family in their prayers.

Paul Grifoni, 35, lives nearby and said he walked into the store Sunday night to buy some drinks. He found Indawala bleeding behind the counter. He was on the phone calling for help.

His face badly beaten, Indawala implored Grifoni not to leave him alone in the store.

Grifoni worried after the attack but said he was relieved to hear Thursday of the arrests.

"I'm glad that they're not local," he said.

Three days after the attack, a security guard at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Broward spotted the Concorde driving "suspiciously" through the parking garages, said Seminole police spokesman Gary Bitner.

The security guard asked the men what they were up to. Just looking for the exit, they told him. But after the guard gave them directions, the car continued to circle in another garage.

The guard called police.

Officers chased them to nearby Hollywood, where the stolen car finally stopped. Misleveck was immediately arrested. But Newman ran and climbed up a tree.

When a helicopter located him, he ran again and was bitten by a police dog. He was briefly hospitalized.

They were booked into the Broward County Jail early Wednesday.

LaBarbera, of the Jackson County Sheriff's Office in Wisconsin, said he was "pretty surprised" to learn the two had headed to Florida. The Jackson County Sheriff's Office had contacted Canadian authorities in case the men headed north.

Both were months away from completing their sentences. Instead, they are now looking at multiple charges.

In Hillsborough, it's armed robbery and battery on an elderly person. Charges in Jackson and Broward counties include auto theft and fleeing police. They also face federal charges for possessing a gun as a convicted felon.

"These two individuals are off the streets," said Hillsborough Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Debbie Carter, "and not going to be hurting anybody else."

Times staff writer Stephanie Wang and researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

Laura C. Morel can be reached at (727)893-8713 or [email protected]

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