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St. Petersburg police release images of person of interest in real estate agent kidnappings

St. Petersburg police say this man is a person of interest in two kidnappings this week.
St. Petersburg police say this man is a person of interest in two kidnappings this week.
Published Jun. 6, 2015

ST. PETERSBURG — Police released photos and videos Friday of a person of interest in the kidnapping this week of two real estate agents.

The video, captured at a retail store, shows a man, mostly bald, with a medium build and a mustache walking through the store and then leaving with a bag in hand. He wore a long-sleeve white dress shirt and gray slacks.

At a news conference, Jim Previtera, St. Petersburg assistant police chief, stopped short of calling the man a suspect in the kidnappings that have set area real estate agents on edge and brought attention to the dangers of the job (http://tbtim.es/jcf).

"We believe he may have information that would be critical to this case," Previtera said.

He said investigators believe that the man lives locally and that the video was shot a few weeks ago. He declined to say what detectives think is in the bag the man is carrying, but said the contents are part of the investigation.

Asked how close police are to making an arrest, Previtera said he feels "pretty good right now" and hopes to have the suspect in custody by the end of the weekend.

"I wouldn't say we're close or imminent, but the investigation has progressed," he said.

On Wednesday, a 59-year-old agent with Hofacker & Associates said she went to a house for sale in the Tyrone area after a man called that morning about the listing. When she arrived around noon, he was already there and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. She gave him a "quick little tour," she told the Times, and they chatted about the kitchen (http://tbtim.es/jcg).

All of a sudden he told her, "Sorry about this," and jammed a gun in her face. He handcuffed her and bound her ankles, then called her husband to demand a ransom. The woman's husband thought the call was a prank and hung up — twice. After the third call, the robber gave up, leaving with the woman's phone. She slipped out of her restraints and went to a nearby house for help.

Not long after, police said, he struck again, holding another female real estate agent at gunpoint on Oxford Drive. When he saw another Realtor and client pull up to that house, he quietly left.

Anyone with information about the man's identity or any other information about the case is asked to call (727) 893-7780.