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Boyfriend arrested in death of woman found in New Port Richey woods, deputies say

The woman’s decomposing body was discovered at the couple’s campsite on April 10, but her boyfriend said she was strangled to death during a fight 17 days earlier.
David Allen Thomas, 59, was arrested May 3 after his girlfriend's body was found hidden in the woods in New Port Richey. He faces felony charges of second-degree murder and tampering, removing or destroying evidence.
David Allen Thomas, 59, was arrested May 3 after his girlfriend's body was found hidden in the woods in New Port Richey. He faces felony charges of second-degree murder and tampering, removing or destroying evidence. [ Pasco County Sheriff's Office ]
Published May 4|Updated May 4

After nearly a month of hiding, a New Port Richey man said he was “relieved” when deputies finally knocked on his hotel door Tuesday morning to ask him about his girlfriend, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.

David Allen Thomas, 59, knew many of the deputies well. He had long lived as a transient in the New Port Richey area, setting up camps in the small patches of woodland that buffers the Anclote River from sprawling housing developments, the Sheriff’s Office said. His court records show a history of petty crimes involving theft and drug use.

But when Thomas was arrested Tuesday, deputies say it was for killing the woman he had called his girlfriend for the past five years.

In his arrest affidavit, deputies wrote that Thomas told them he had “been struggling the last five weeks over what he did” and, after his arrest, provided detectives with a full confession.

They had been searching for Thomas since April 10, when his girlfriend’s decomposing body was discovered at the couple’s woodland campsite just west of the Pasco Square shopping center at 7101 State Road 54 in New Port Richey. Thomas had packed up camp and was nowhere to be found. All that remained, deputies said, was the woman’s body — cocooned in multiple tarps and hidden under piles of trash and debris.

Medical examiners were able to identify the woman, but the Sheriff’s Office has not released her name, citing Marsy’s Law.

It took 23 days for investigators to catch up with the woman’s missing boyfriend, who was found Tuesday at a Quality Inn and Suites off U.S. 19 in New Port Richey.

But Thomas told deputies he had been in hiding since March 24, when he killed his girlfriend during a fight that turned physical. By the time he was discovered, he had already changed his phone number and was making plans to flee the continental U.S., deputies said.

In his interview with detectives, Thomas told them that fight ended when he knelt over his girlfriend’s torso while she was lying on her back, pinning her to the ground. He used his left forearm to put pressure on the woman’s neck while using his right hand to hold her arms to the ground. Thomas told them he stayed there for several minutes, blocking her airway until she died.

According to his affidavit, Thomas waited several hours before attempting to bury his girlfriend in a wooded spot on the north end of their campsite. He told detectives he put the woman’s body on a tarp and dragged her to the secluded spot, but then realized he had nothing with which to dig a grave. Instead, the report said, Thomas decided to wrap the woman’s body in two tarps, “rolling a third tarp over a few times to create a ‘casket,’ which he then staked to the ground.”

Thomas now faces felony charges of second-degree murder and destroying, altering or tampering with evidence. He was being held in the Land O’ Lakes Detention Facility without bail Wednesday.

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