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Released inmate pleads guilty to home invasions

Seventeen days after his early release from prison last spring, Tommy Lamar Calton began terrorizing and beating elderly people in a series of West Tampa home invasions, prosecutors said. Bursting through open windows and doors, he beat them and stole their money and guns they were afraid to use.

On Monday, the 33-year-old pleaded guilty to five home invasions. Calton may face up to life in prison when he is sentenced Nov. 21.

"He picked the victims because they were elderly," said prosecutor Clay Yates, who was scheduled to handle Calton's trial Monday. "We feel good about the plea. They're old people and they did not want to have to face this man again during trial."

Calton had been convicted of burglary in 1988. He served less than two years of a nine-year prison sentence and quickly returned to crime to support his crack habit, police said.

On May 28, he broke into the West Tampa home of a 77-year-old woman, tied her up and stole $100 and her gun, police said.

About two hours later, he broke into a home two blocks away. A 71-year-old man tried to run out the front door and call the police, but Calton tackled him in front of the house, breaking the man's hip, police said.

Next, he beat and cut a 77-year-old man; terrorized a couple, who were both 85, in their home; and slapped an elderly woman around in his search for money.

Police stopped Calton two blocks from the scene of the last break-in. They found his fingerprints and shoe prints in one home. Faced with the evidence Calton confessed, prosecutors said.

He was charged with 15 counts including armed burglary, strong-arm robbery, armed robbery, robbery, aggravated battery, false imprisonment, grand theft, battery, aggravated battery on a person 65 or older and burglary with battery.

"We were lucky he didn't hurt us," said one of his elderly victims after Calton's arrest in June. Afraid that he might be released again, she asked that her name not be published. "I'm scared that he will come back."