Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Public safety

Tampa woman says she was abused, terrorized by her boyfriend in Mexico before making escape

TAMPA — Rachel Bravo fell in love with a man she met at a coin laundry on Hillsborough Avenue.

Manuel Miranda Colon told her she was beautiful. He bought dinner at Outback Steakhouse. Within weeks, he promised a vacation to Mexico.

Bravo, 30, says she didn't know he had served time for attempted murder — or that he was wanted on three counts of sexually abusing a minor.

So she went with him.

Soon after they crossed the border and settled in Mexicali, he began to change, she said. He beat their dogs. Then he started beating her, she said, and he raped her repeatedly.

She felt as if she couldn't leave.

Bravo was able to escape Sunday with the help of two women, and she shared her story with a reporter Friday.

Though authorities say they're investigating allegations that she was a victim of a sex crime, Bravo wants her name in print. She hopes she can encourage other abused women to look for their opportunity to run — and to take it.

"I'm so glad I got away," she said, crying in a telephone interview. "Amazingly happy."

Miranda Colon is in a California jail on the three existing warrants. Authorities found him Sunday after Bravo explained where they had been living.

They are still investigating Bravo's statements.

She's living with her mother in New York now, and was finally able to sleep through the night Thursday. She has a counseling appointment next week.

She regrets not seeing the warning signs.

In Tampa, she says, he monitored her phone conversations and kept her from telling her family about their trip. Still, she went willingly to Mexico. He was "sweet" then, she said.

But her family was becoming worried. After not hearing from Bravo for a couple of days, her mother called a son who lives in Spring Hill.

That son, Anthony Bravo, 37, drove to his sister's apartment. She wasn't there, so he filed a missing person's report.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office went to the apartment but didn't take the case much further. Deputies say she didn't appear to be in danger.

Her apartment didn't show clues of a struggle. She's 30 years old and not considered "endangered," they said. She was with her boyfriend.

At the same time, though, the U.S. Marshals Service was tracking Miranda Colon. They saw he had traveled to Texas, Arizona and then to California. In California, the couple sold the vehicle.

They made their way to Mexicali by taxi, Bravo said.

Miranda Colon befriended the taxi driver, she said, and the pair often went to his mother's house for dinner.

Then on Saturday, Bravo says, Miranda Colon attacked her with a hammer and said he was going to kill her.

She says she knew she didn't have much time, so the next day when they went to the woman's house for dinner, Bravo made a move. When Miranda Colon was in the bathroom, she says, she mouthed a word she had learned: ayudame.

Help me.

The woman seemed to understand. She had her daughter take Bravo on a trip to a grocery store, insisting to a worried Miranda Colon that they'd be right back.

Instead, the young woman took Bravo to a woman who spoke English, and after explaining her situation, that woman drove Bravo to the border. The U.S. Marshals listened to her, and by Tuesday, she was on a plane to New York.

Dozens of friends and family members who had been turning to a Facebook page titled "Please help us find Rachel Ann Bravo" celebrated online.

"Thank you for all your prayers," Bravo responded. "It's been quite an ordeal."

Times staff writer Danny Valentine contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.

Comments
FedEx driver, 22, dies in crash on Interstate 4

FedEx driver, 22, dies in crash on Interstate 4

TAMPA — A 22-year-old FedEx driver died Tuesday after a tire blew out on his freight truck on Interstate 4 east of Tampa, sending it into a collision path with a Chevrolet Volt, state troopers said. Two teen girls in the Volt survived the 10:21 a.m. ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Crime in Florida, Tampa Bay region decreased in 2017, data show

Crime in Florida, Tampa Bay region decreased in 2017, data show

Crime in Florida reached a 47-year low in 2017, according to state figures released Tuesday and touted as a "major announcement" by a Republican governor determined to win a U.S. Senate seat. The state’s total crime rate dropped by 6 percent from 201...
Updated: 3 hours ago

FDLE: Pasco couple scammed elderly employer out of $480,000

TAMPA — A Pasco County couple face dozens of charges after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said they stole more than $480,000 from their elderly employer.Chet Alan Ragsdale, 45, was arrested Monday on 28 counts of grand theft, 25 counts of ...
Published: 05/21/18
4 sinkholes open in The Villages retirement community

4 sinkholes open in The Villages retirement community

THE VILLAGES — Four sinkholes have opened up in a fast-growing retirement community in Florida, including one in front of a home that was abandoned months ago because of an earlier sinkhole. A spokeswoman for the Marion County Sheriff’s Office says t...
Published: 05/21/18
Florida man caught walking around naked with a bottle of cooking oil, deputies say

Florida man caught walking around naked with a bottle of cooking oil, deputies say

A Gulf Breeze man walked around a neighborhood naked while carrying a bottle of cooking oil, Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s deputies said.The Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office received a call from a homeowner at 8:30 p.m. on May 17 saying home security...
Published: 05/21/18
A man punched a pregnant, deaf woman and her service dog on a plane ride to Florida, police say

A man punched a pregnant, deaf woman and her service dog on a plane ride to Florida, police say

A man is accused of attacking a deaf couple and their service dog while they were travelling on a plane headed toward Orlando.The incident happened as Matthew Silvay, 30, and Hazel Ramirez, 21, were on Frontier Flight 1752 as it left Colorado Springs...
Published: 05/21/18
Pasco sheriff: Man, 23, sexually battered 10-year-old girl

Pasco sheriff: Man, 23, sexually battered 10-year-old girl

PORT RICHEY — A 23-year-old man was arrested Friday on a charge of sexual battery under the age of 12, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.Elias Barreiro sexually battered a 10-year-old girl last year, according to the arrest report. He wa...
Published: 05/21/18
Lava from Kilauea volcano enters ocean, creates toxic cloud

Lava from Kilauea volcano enters ocean, creates toxic cloud

PAHOA, Hawaii — White plumes of acid and extremely fine shards of glass billowed into the sky over Hawaii as molten rock from Kilauea volcano poured into the ocean, creating yet another hazard from an eruption that began more than two weeks ago. Auth...
Published: 05/21/18
Traffic lights restored at Pinellas Park intersection

Traffic lights restored at Pinellas Park intersection

PINELLAS PARK — Traffic lights have been restored at the intersection of 66th Street N and Park Boulevard, police said. About 5:45 p.m., Pinellas Park Police announced the outage. 
Published: 05/20/18
Updated: 05/21/18
Family, friends recall shooting victims’ optimism, humor

Family, friends recall shooting victims’ optimism, humor

SANTA FE, Texas — A 17-year-old student looking forward to celebrating his family's new swimming pool and a substitute teacher whose home frequently hosted family gatherings were among the 10 people killed in a mass shooting at a Texas high sch...
Published: 05/20/18