WWE star Sonya Deville on stalking suspect: ‘He was there to hurt me.’

Deville, also known as Daria Berenato, and fellow wrestler Mandy Rose were able to escape when a man entered Berenato's Hillsborough County home, records say.
Amanda Saccomanno, left, and Daria Berenato wrestle under the WWE names Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. They escaped from a would-be kidnapper Sunday morning at Berenato's home in Lutz, deputies said.
Amanda Saccomanno, left, and Daria Berenato wrestle under the WWE names Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. They escaped from a would-be kidnapper Sunday morning at Berenato's home in Lutz, deputies said. [ Scott Fishman/ ]
Published Aug. 18, 2020|Updated Aug. 22, 2020

When WWE star Sonya Deville came face to face with a strange man on her back porch, she screamed at him.

“What are doing, what do you want?” Deville yelled as he stared at her from just four feet away. He then began to walk toward her.

“That is when I realized this person was not here to rob me, he was there to hurt me,” Deville, whose real name is Daria Berenato, wrote in a court petition seeking protection from the man authorities have identified as 24-year-old Phillip A. Thomas II.

Thomas was holding a knife and pepper spray when he came face to face with Berenato, records say.

The petition for stalking protection that Berenato filed Monday offers new details about her encounter early Sunday with a man described by authorities as an obsessed stalker who drove from South Carolina with plans to kidnap her. The document also outlines the increasingly threatening messages that authorities say Thomas sent by social media, including one message from inside her lanai.

Phillip A. Thomas II is pictured after his arrest.
Phillip A. Thomas II is pictured after his arrest. [ Courtesy of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office ]

According to her account, Berenato, 26, went to bed about 1:15 a.m. at her home in a North Tampa subdivision. At 2:41 a.m., her security alarm went off. Berenato ran to a keypad by the garage to disarm the system, which was showing a family room door was open.

Berenato woke up a friend who was in the house at the time and ran to the family room.

“As I was ensuring the sliding glass door lock was secure, I looked up and on my back lanai was Phillip,” she wrote.

When Thomas began to walk toward her, Berenato ran to the friend’s room. A court motion that prosecutors later filed to hold Thomas without bail says the friend was Amanda Saccomanno, a WWE star who performs under the name Mandy Rose.

“There’s a man in the house, we have to go,” Berenato told the friend. She grabbed her keys, went to the garage and the two sped away.

Berenato called 911. When Hillsborough deputies arrived minutes later, Thomas was still at the home, records say.

Berenato watched video from her security system and saw that Thomas had followed her, “but he thought I ran up the stairs, leaving me and my friend just enough time to escape.”

After learning Thomas’ identity from deputies, Berenato typed his name into her Instagram account and found hundreds of messages from his account dating back to March 2019, according to the petition.

“The nature of the messages from this account were obsessive, suicidal, idolizing, saying, ‘You are the only person I will ever love,’ ” Berenato wrote.

She saw another account without a profile photo that contained what she described as similar grammar and “disturbingly threatening.”

The last message from that account, Berenato wrote, arrived at 12:16 a.m. Sunday: “Look outside, baby, by your pool. I’m here. I’m gonna kill that little b--ch you have inside with you.”

The other messages from that account began on July 5.

“I found your home address,” one said, and included the address.

In other messages, the sender threatened to decapitate or go after Berenato’s friends and relatives by name and described sex acts. One message included a photo of a penis.

“I’m a public figure with a social media following of almost 1 million so all his messages were in my ‘request’ folder, which is filled with thousands of messages from people I do not follow,” Berenato wrote in the petition.

According to the arrest report and the motion filed by prosecutors, Thomas admitted to driving from South Carolina on Saturday. He parked his car — a green, two-door 1997 Ford Thunderbird with South Carolina plates — at a church about a third of a mile away from the home. Then he walked to the home carrying items including a knife, mace, plastic zip ties, window punches and duct tape, records say.

He cut a hole in a patio screen and remained on the patio three to four hours while watching and listening through the windows. After Berenato and her friend fled, Thomas remained in the house thinking they were upstairs hiding.

“The defendant admitted that his intention was to take Mrs. Berenato hostage by spraying her (with) pepper spray, binding her hands with the zip ties, and wrapping duct tape around her arms to prevent from fighting back,” the prosecution motion says. “He stated that he intended to keep Mrs. Bernato hostage, preventing her from attending a planned event schedule for the following week, and that he was not going to leave her residence without her answering all of his questions.”

Berenato and Saccomanno are facing off in a “Hair vs. Hair” showdown that they’re promoting now on social media as part of the WWE Summer Slam event Sunday.

A judge granted Berenato’s handwritten request for a temporary injunction against stalking violence.

Thomas remained in jail Tuesday on charges of armed kidnapping, aggravated stalking and armed burglary of a dwelling, all felonies, and criminal mischief, a misdemeanor. A hearing is scheduled Thursday on the prosecution motion to prevent Thomas’ release on bail.

The motion says the only way to keep Berenato and the public safe is to hold Thomas because of his “longterm obsession” with her, the anger displayed in the messages and the lengths to which Thomas went to plan and conduct the kidnapping.

Editor’s note: References to the victim’s home have been removed from this story.