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Tampa personal trainer accused of sexual battery is arrested in Arkansas

TAMPA — After a three-hour manhunt, federal marshals on Friday arrested a Tampa personal trainer accused of sexually battering female clients.

About 30 women have complained to authorities about James Elbert Williams' behavior — characterizing it from creepy to criminal — and three so far have resulted in formal charges.

Last week, marshals tracked Williams, 39, down to his hometown of Little Rock, Ark., and arrested him on a sexual battery warrant. He posted bail the next day.

On Friday, they got another request. A third incident had prompted an arrest warrant. So six marshals headed to Williams' father's trailer, in a rural area east of Little Rock.

As they pulled up, Williams stood barefoot in the back yard. He saw them coming.

And he ran, authorities say.

As he disappeared into the bramble of oak trees and maples, they stopped.

"He runs a fitness center," U.S. Marshal Jim Hays said. "He's in pretty good shape."

The dogs couldn't track his scent. A helicopter had trouble seeing through the dense woods, about a square mile in size. So the marshals called in backup and about 20 officers set up a perimeter.

Nearly three hours passed. Then at about 12:45 p.m., Williams approached a local resident and asked to borrow a cell phone.

He called his father, James Williams II, and asked his dad to pick him up, Hays said.

The younger Williams had no idea his father was cooperating with authorities.

His run was over.

Williams was first arrested in Tampa on July 1, accused of sexually battering a woman through her capri workout pants as she exercised on a mat at his gym.

After her story was publicized, more women started coming forward.

Some said Williams had given them unwanted massages and held them close as they worked out. Some said he had invited them to his house and made them uncomfortable.

Other women's allegations were criminal. They said his touching went too far, the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office reported.

Each claim is being investigated as a separate incident, and two detectives are on the case. More charges could be filed, sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said.

The latest arrest is in connection with a sexual battery that occurred this spring at Williams' Get Fit gym at 12400 N Dale Mabry Highway, deputies said. The woman, age 55, was a client.

The other two charges Williams faces are from incidents at his other gym, Club Tone on Linebaugh Avenue.

Before Williams was arrested July 13 on the second charge, he had eluded authorities for a week. That time, U.S. marshals tracked him down to a hotel in Little Rock, Ark.

He didn't run that time, Hays said.

Williams was allowed to post $25,000 bail in Arkansas for that charge because his Tampa bondsman signed a letter stating that he or she had known Williams was in Arkansas and did not consider him a flight risk, said Mark Cox of the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office.

On the latest warrant, Williams' bail was set at $500,000.

Court records list his bondsman as Bridgett's Bail Bonds, which did not return a call Friday afternoon.

If Williams doesn't post bond on the latest charge, Hillsborough County authorities will try to extradite him, Carter said.

If he fights it, they will request a governor's warrant, the standard procedure for making a person facing charges return to the area where a crime allegedly occurred.

Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at (813) 226-3433 or jvandervelde@sptimes.com.

Tampa personal trainer accused of sexual battery is arrested in Arkansas 07/22/11 [Last modified: Saturday, July 23, 2011 12:38am]

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