Stalker confronted WWE star Sonya Deville with knife and mace, report says

The former MMA fighter acknowledged on Twitter "a very frightening experience" and thanked the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office for its response.
Phillip A. Thomas II, 24, was arrested for breaking into a home with plans to hold the homeowner hostage, deputies said.
Phillip A. Thomas II, 24, was arrested for breaking into a home with plans to hold the homeowner hostage, deputies said. [ Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office ]
Published Aug. 17, 2020|Updated Aug. 17, 2020

LUTZ — A man trying to kidnap WWE star Sonya Deville confronted her with a knife in one hand and a can of mace in the other when she went to the back door of her home to check on the alarm he had activated, according to an arrest report.

New details about the early Sunday kidnap attempt are described in the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office report, obtained Monday by the Tampa Bay Times. The report is heavily redacted, with the names of two victims and the address of the home blacked out.

But Hillsborough property records show that the home where the suspect was arrested is owned by Daria Berenato, 26, who performs for WWE under the name Sonya Deville and also stars in the E! cable channel reality TV series Total Divas.

Berenato, 26, acknowledged the incident in a Tweet on Sunday night from Deville’s account. The tweet had been liked by more than 32,000 times Monday. Fans and fellow WWE entertainers wrote messages of support, and some, predictions that Deville — who has a background in mixed martial arts — could have handled herself.

“Thank you everyone for your love and concern,” the tweet from Deville said. “A very frightening experience but thankfully everyone is safe. A special thank you to Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office for their response and assistance.”

The Sheriff’s Office made an arrest within 10 minutes after the offense occurred at the home in the Promenade at Lake Park subdivision in Lutz, according to the arrest report.

The alarm sounded just before 2:45 a.m. Sunday as the homeowner was sleeping, according to a Sheriff’s Office news release. A guest was also in the home at the time, the release said, and both victims went to the sliding glass patio door to investigate.

They found a man later identified as Phillip A. Thomas II, 24, holding the knife and mace, the arrest report said. The two victims fled in a car and called 911.

“The defendant remained inside the residence, as he believed the victims were hiding upstairs and he was waiting for them to come downstairs,” the arrest report said. “The defendant was located within the residence and taken into custody by deputies.”

Thomas had parked his car — a green, two-door 1997 Ford Thunderbird with South Carolina plates — about a third of a mile away from the home, at Idlewild Church off Dale Mabry Highway and Van Dyke Road, the arrest report said. Thomas walked to the home carrying items including a knife, mace, plastic zip ties, window punches and duct tape.

Related: Man arrested on kidnapping charge at Lutz home of WWE star Sonya Deville

He cut a hole in a patio screen and remained on the patio three to four hours while watching and listening through the windows, the news release said. He entered the home through the unlocked sliding glass door, activating the alarm, according to the arrest report.

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Thomas had been stalking the homeowner on social media for years and told deputies he had come to the house to kidnap the homeowner, according to the news release.

He was arrested on charges of armed kidnapping, aggravated stalking and armed burglary of a dwelling, all felonies, and criminal mischief, a misdemeanor. He was being held without bail Monday in the Hillsborough County jail.

Staff writers Tony Marrero and Kavitha Surana contributed to this report.