While police were on the alert in Georgia for a man who might be a suspect in a Zephyrhills double homicide, the big break came over the phone.
The suspect called the police chief.
That phone call Thursday afternoon led to the arrest of Kyle Aric Thomas, 27, in a town outside of Atlanta called Villa Rica. He was arrested on an old warrant, a violation of probation, out of Cartersville, Ga. But Zephyrhills police Chief Russell Barnes declared Friday that Thomas no longer is just a "person of interest" in the double homicide.
"He is a suspect," Barnes said.
The arrest was the stuff of television drama in Villa Rica, a small Georgia town, population 9,200, give or take.
At about 4 p.m. Thursday, Thomas called to speak with Chief Barnes. The call ended up going to Zephyrhills detective Sgt. Jeff McDougal, who was working the case. The job of tracing the call already was under way.
McDougal kept Thomas on the phone. Finally the call was traced to a pay phone at a Texaco station along Dallas Highway in Villa Rica. The local police were called.
It worked. The Villa Rica police drove up to find Thomas still chatting on the pay phone across the street from the Tanner Medical Center. And with that break, the man who police believe is the key to breaking the mystery of the double homicide was under arrest.
"We just rushed out there and arrested him on a charge of violation of probation," said Villa Rica police Chief Ned Watson.
Thomas now is a suspect in the deaths of his father, 54-year-old Craig Thomas, and his father's girlfriend, 45-year-old Irene Rita Martin. Both were found dead Tuesday in the mobile home they shared on Lawanda Loop in Zephyrhills. They had been dead for several days, authorities said.
Kyle Thomas, who had been living with his dad and Martin for a couple of months, was missing, as was Craig Thomas' car.
Both Kyle Thomas and the car were found in Villa Rica late Thursday. Chief Barnes said the car was not with Thomas at the time of his arrest.
Thomas' ex-fiance, Jennifer McConnon, told the Times on Friday that Kyle Thomas likely headed to Villa Rica because that's near where his mother lives.
"The whole time I knew him he was on the run from police," said McConnon, 20, who broke up with Thomas a year and a half ago.
Though Thomas has been in trouble, nothing in his record suggests violent crime. The probation violation stems from a misdemeanor marijuana conviction. While he was on probation for that, he was caught driving without a valid license. That probation violation led to his arrest on Thursday.
McConnon said that she never saw Thomas with a gun, but he routinely carried a "butterfly knife." Zephyrhills police have not released the cause of death in the killings.
When she first heard that police were looking for her former fiance, McConnon said she was not shocked.
"With most people, you would be, like, "No way,' " she said. "But with Kyle, I'm not completely surprised."
Two Zephyrhills police detectives and one from the Sheriff's Department drove to Georgia late Thursday. Barnes said they were able to talk with Thomas on Friday. He is being held in Bartow County jail in Cartersville on the violation of probation charge.
Barnes declined to discuss what they had learned from Thomas. One detective will be driving back to Pasco soon with Craig Thomas' car so it can be examined for evidence.