‘Born of pure evil.’ Judge gives life sentence in Hillsborough kidnapping case

The circumstances of Trevor Summers’ crimes made him a “monster,” the judge said.
Trevor Summers, the defendant, left, is escorted into the courtroom during his trial in August.
Trevor Summers, the defendant, left, is escorted into the courtroom during his trial in August. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Oct. 4, 2022|Updated Oct. 4, 2022

TAMPA — For a horrifying two-day ordeal in which he kidnapped and twice tried to kill his former wife, Trevor Steven Summers will spend the rest of his life in prison, a judge decided Monday.

The sentence came a month after a trial that saw Summers abruptly ditch his court-appointed lawyer as Alisa Mathewson, formerly Alisa Summers, sat on the witness stand. He represented himself for the remainder of the trial and thus was able to cross-examine her and their children.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Christopher Sabella told Trevor Summers he didn’t begrudge Summers’ decision to represent himself.

“However, I do believe the timing of your decision was born of pure evil, which is not surprising,” Sabella said. “Given the circumstances of this case, the testimony and evidence that I have heard clearly make you a monster in every stretch of the imagination.”

A jury found Summers guilty of 11 charges, including kidnapping, attempted murder and sexual battery.

In March 2017, Summers went to the Valrico home where his estranged wife was staying with their five children. She was seeking a divorce and months earlier had obtained a court order for protection against him. In the dark early morning hours, he summoned their teenage daughter to a window and convinced her to let him climb through it.

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

He then went to Alisa Mathewson’s bedroom. He bound her with rope and Christmas lights.

At trial, she recounted how Summers raped her while holding her captive and shoved a pillow onto her face until she lost consciousness.

He later forced her into her SUV and spent a day driving around rural Hillsborough and Manatee counties. He was said to be looking for a marina where he hoped to charter a boat to take them both out to sea. During a stop at a Walgreens store, a man saw Alisa Mathewson get out, still bound, and run toward the roadside before Summers caught her and put her back in the SUV.

He cut her wrist. He later tried to strangle her. He wrote what was viewed as a suicide note, telling their children the couple would be “watching from heaven.” When sheriff’s deputies found them, Summers slashed his own throat.

In court Monday, his former mother-in-law, Donna Waryga, used words like “charismatic,” “narcissistic,” “controlling” and “lying,” to describe Summers and his behavior. She described him as a person who moved around the country in pursuit of ways to get rich. She said he often found himself in trouble, but that he managed to avoid consequences.

“For years, Mr. Summers found himself in situation after situation,” Waryga said. “And it was never, ever his fault.”

She alluded to his role in a federal investment fraud case for which he still awaits sentencing in Philadelphia. She said her family always believed he was dangerous.

Three of his children spoke to the judge. Summers, clad in orange, rested his chin on one hand as he listened to his now-9-year-old son recall a flashback to being left alone when he was 3 1/2 years old, in an empty house after his father abducted his mother.

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He heard his now-20-year-old daughter speak of the guilt she felt for letting him in their house when she was still a child, and how she felt she couldn’t breathe when she realized he’d get to question her during the trial.

He heard his former wife tell of a long struggle to overcome trauma. After her ordeal, Mathewson said, she found herself alarmed at the sight of men who looked like her former husband. She spoke of being startled awake amid nightmares that he was attacking her again.

Despite her struggles, her children needed their mother.

“Oh, how I cried at the pain you caused them,” she said. “I am happy to report that my love for them overcame your evil intent.”

When it was his turn to speak, Summers offered an apology. He said he wished he could have delivered it sooner.

“My biggest remorse and regret is them feeling the way they do about me,” he said of his children.

The judge noted the case was particularly sad, as it involved a family and young children who had suffered greatly.

“I only hope the sentence I give you today gives some sense of peace in knowing that Mr. Trevor Summers will spend the rest of his life in Florida state prison,” he said.