Jury delivers guilty verdict in Hillsborough kidnapping trial

Trevor Summers was convicted of 11 charges related to the kidnapping, rape and attempted murder of his former wife.
Trevor Summers is escorted into the courtroom during his trial this week in Tampa.
Trevor Summers is escorted into the courtroom during his trial this week in Tampa. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Aug. 26, 2022|Updated Aug. 27, 2022

TAMPA — A Tampa jury found Trevor Summers guilty of all 11 charges Friday night related to the kidnapping, rape and attempted murder of his former wife in 2017 after she sought a divorce.

Jury deliberations began just before 2 p.m. and finished just after 7 p.m. — including ordering dinner, according to Mike Moore, a spokesperson for the 13th Judicial Circuit Court in Hillsborough County.

A sentencing hearing for Summers has been scheduled for 9 a.m. on Oct. 3.

Summers dumped his court-appointed attorney midway through the trial, electing to represent himself. It happened just after his former wife took the witness stand and described for the jury a three-day ordeal in which she was bound, sexually attacked and driven around rural Florida.

Related: 5 years later, trial begins in Valrico kidnapping case

Prosecutors portrayed Summers as an abusive and controlling husband who couldn’t stand that his wife wanted to leave him.

“What this comes down to is a scorned lover,” Assistant State Attorney Jessica O’Connor said in closing arguments. “The defendant was not willing to come to grips with his divorce with his ex-wife. If he couldn’t have her, then no one could.”

In his own closing argument, Summers suggested to the jury that the sexual activity was consensual. He also claimed that prosecutors had not proven that he meant to kill his wife or that she didn’t go with him willingly.

“I assert that the state has not proven what was in my heart,” he said. The utterance prompted an objection from a prosecutor as a misstatement of the law.

Summers then corrected: “The state has not proved my intentions.”

Alisa Mathewson, formerly Alisa Summers, described her relationship with the defendant, to whom she’d been married 16 years. It was a troubled marriage. In late 2016, she obtained a court order for protection against her husband. At the same time, she sought a divorce.

They lived in separate homes. Prosecutors said Summers tricked one of their five children into letting him into her house in Valrico early one morning in March 2017. He went to his wife’s bedroom and tied her to the bed with rope and Christmas lights.

Related: Sheriff: Trevor Summers had teen leave window unlocked, take siblings away, so he could kidnap estranged wife

On the witness stand, she described how he repeatedly raped her while holding her captive. He later held a pillow over her face until she briefly lost consciousness.

“You came in and put the pillow over my face, full force,” she said amid cross-examination by her former husband.

Prosecutors said Summers took his former wife, still bound, and forced her into her SUV, then drove around rural Hillsborough and Manatee counties for more than a day. They said he was looking for a marina where he hoped to charter a boat to take them to sea.

At one point, he stopped at a Walgreens. While he was in the store, his wife managed to get out, still bound, and ran toward the road screaming for help. A witness testified that he saw Summers run out, grab her and force her back in the vehicle.

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He cut her wrist after the attempted escape, prosecutors said.

He later drove her to an isolated area, where he tried to strangle her, according to court testimony. His wife said he became scared and stopped when he saw what he thought was an undercover police car.

Hillsborough sheriff’s deputies located the SUV in Ruskin, where Alisa Summers was rescued. Before he was arrested, Trevor Summers attempted to slash his throat. In the vehicle, investigators found a note he’d written to their children. He wrote that he and their mother had decided to “end it” and that “we will be watching you from heaven.”

During closing arguments Friday, Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Johnson played a video message that Summers recorded before his arrest.

In it, he tells his children he has spent a lot of time with their mother. He says he wants to give them some information.

“The things she’s told you about manipulation and lying is true,” he said.

The prosecutor stopped the video.

“That is Trevor Summers in a nutshell,” Johnson said. “Manipulative, lying, controlling.”

His former wife’s appearance on the witness stand, Johnson said, was the first time she’s ever been able to confront him.

“She finally had the opportunity to stand up for herself,” she said.

Times staff writer Matt Cohen contributed to this report.