A South Carolina man was arrested Sunday for attempted kidnapping and other crimes after he allegedly broke into the Florida home of professional wrestler Sonya Deville with a knife, mace and duct tape, authorities said.
Phillip Thomas, 24, had allegedly been planning to take Deville hostage for more than eight months, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release. He had stalked her on social media for years, the release said.
The release did not identify Deville, whose real name is Daria Berenato, as the victim. But the Associated Press reported that Thomas was arrested at a Tampa-area home owned by Berenato.
In a tweet Monday, Berenato, who also appears in the E! reality show "Total Divas," thanked the sheriff’s office and called the event “very frightening.”
“Thankfully everyone is safe,” she said.
The sheriff’s office said that Thomas drove from South Carolina to the community of Lutz, north of Tampa, and parked his car at a church near the home. He cut a hole in the residence's patio screen and waited for the homeowner and a guest to go to bed, the release said.
At 2:43 a.m., Thomas opened the home’s sliding glass door, activating an alarm and prompting a 911 call, the release said. The release said the homeowner and guest fled.
When deputies arrived, Thomas told them he’d driven from out of state with the goal of taking the homeowner hostage, the release said.
“Our deputies are unveiling the suspect's disturbing obsession with this homeowner who he had never met, but stalked on social media for years," Sheriff Chad Chronister said, according to the release. "It's frightening to think of all the ways this incident could have played out had the home alarm not gone off and alerted the homeowner of an intruder.”
Thomas was arrested on suspicion of aggravated stalking, armed burglary, attempted armed kidnapping and criminal mischief.
Jail records show that he is being held without bond.
A message with the local public defender’s office, which is representing him, was not immediately returned.