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Tampa man accused of trying to kidnap three women

TAMPA — Attempts to kidnap three women started Sunday and ended Wednesday in the arrest of a 25-year-old Tampa man.

First, 17-year-old Jermil Thomas was walking near the 4600 block of Linebaugh Avenue in Carrollwood on Sunday when a man approached her from behind, threatened her and told her to get in his car.

Thomas ran to a neighbor's house and the man followed in a 2009 red Honda Fit. He parked outside but eventually took off.

Thomas was able to get part of the car's license plate number and called Tampa police.

Detective Lela Davis began working different databases until she found a match two days later.

The license plate number was 583VRD.

The car's owner was Christopher Allan Sortor, an unemployed community college graduate.

Police set up a surveillance team outside his home at 4411 Shady Terrace Lane, Unit 301, and at his parents' Temple Terrace house.

But at the same time, miles away in New Tampa on Tuesday, Jennifer Seymour, a 24-year-old kindergarten teacher, was jogging near High Woods Preserve Parkway and Stockton Way when she passed a red Honda Fit, police said.

A hand reached out and tried to grab her, but she ran away as the car gave chase, police said.

About five minutes later, Gwen E. Stewart, a 49-year-old hairstylist, came jogging by the same area when the same red car drove up. A man got out and grabbed her by the arm, police said. Stewart fought back and pulled away.

Upon hearing of the attacks, a police officer went to the area and saw the Honda Fit driving slowly through a Muvico parking lot. Police blocked the car and arrested the driver, identified as Sortor.

Sortor admitted to police that he was in the area during the attacks and said he was just talking to women and "liked hooking up with females," said Sgt. Deborah Hutches of the sex crimes division.

He told police that the joggers attacked him, Hutches said.

Police said Sortor has no criminal record, though he has been stopped multiple times for suspicious activity by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and Tampa and Temple Terrace police. He once tried to enter a fire department that was locked, Hutches said.

"He was getting much more aggressive," she said.

In the past two years, police said, Sortor was living in the University area, where he drove to bus stops asking people if they needed rides, Hutches said.

Police think he may be involved in other kidnapping attempts. In November, a South Tampa woman walking her dog told police that a man in a similar car asked her if she needed a ride.

Like all the women, she refused, something police strongly recommend in these type of scenarios.

"Whatever you can do, try not to get into the car," Hutches said.

Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or jgeorge@sptimes.com.

Tampa man accused of trying to kidnap three women 12/09/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 9, 2009 10:54pm]
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