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A man who tried to swim away faces burglary charge.

On a rainy night in December, a johnboat paddled by an angry 50-year-old man chased a "getaway kayak" across King Lake, according to the Pasco Sheriff's deputies.

Stashed in the kayak were the man's boat and lawn mower motors, deputies said. Rowing the kayak was a 23-year-old man with short brown hair who would later turn out to be a good swimmer.

A few minutes before, Charles Pearson had been grilling ribeye steaks on his porch when he heard a splash from the big lake that abuts his back yard. He asked if anyone needed help, but there was no answer.

"The guy would have got away with it if he would have answered me," Pearson said.

Because if the man in the kayak, who deputies identified as Clinton Rossbach, would have said he was fine, would have said anything, Pearson would not have walked down to the beach to check on him. And he wouldn't have noticed his two motors were missing.

After a few choice words and some yelling, Pearson began to paddle after the kayak.

Now, a flat-bottom johnboat cannot go as fast as a kayak, even if the rower didn't have a few decades on the kayak's captain. So Rossbach made it across the lake much faster than Pearson, even though the kayak was tottering with the motors clanking at the bottom, Pearson said.

Halfway across the lake, the kayak overturned. Rossbach tried unsuccessfully to get back on a couple of times, Pearson said.

At that spot in the lake - at any spot in the lake, really - there weren't many options.

"He took off swimming," said Pearson.

It was in the middle of a bad storm with wind and thunder, and Pearson thought about chasing after the swimmer. Instead, he yelled "I got your boat" into the rain and with one hand on the kayak's hull, he rowed the johnboat back to shore.

Clinton Rossbach of Spring Hill was arrested Thursday and charged with burglary. He was released Friday on $5,000 bail and could not be reached by the Times.

More than a month after the chase, Pearson isn't angry anymore.

"It was funny as hell," he said.

He got his motors back, but the ribeye steaks burned. That was fine with Pearson's wife.

"That was the only good thing that came out of it," said Gale Pearson. "I got my steak the way I like it."

Helen Anne Travis can be reached at or (352) 521-6518.