Phillip A. Thomas has been accused of breaking into WWE star Sonya Deville’s Florida home, according to ESPN. The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said that Thomas had been stalking the homeowner and planning his attack for several months.
Deville (whose real name is Daria Berenato, ESPN reported) is a WWE standout, former MMA fighter, LGBTQ advocate and businesswoman with her own clothing line, the Miami Herald reported; she is also WWE’s first superstar to come out as a lesbian.
Thomas was arrested Sunday and has been charged with three felonies and one misdemeanor, the HCSO reported.
Thomas Was Caught Inside The Home, Deputies Said
ESPN first reported that the home in Lutz actually belonged to Deville; Deville confirmed that in a Tweet from her verified account, thanking her fans for support and the sheriff’s office for its response.
According to the HCSO, the 24-year-old Lutz had planned the break-in at Deville’s home for more than eight months. He parked his car at a church and walked to Deville’s home, where he cut a hole in the patio screen door and waited until Deville went to bed before entering the home and tripping the alarm, they alleged.
Detectives learned Thomas parked his car at Idle Wild Church earlier that night, walked to the residence, cut a hole in the patio screen, and remained there for approximately three to four hours, watching and listening through the windows. After the homeowner went to bed, Thomas entered through the back sliding glass door, which activated the home alarm, and prompted the homeowner to look out the window and spot the suspect on the property. The homeowner and their guest fled the home in a car and called 911. When deputies arrived, Thomas was still inside the residence. Deputies discovered he was carrying a knife, plastic zip ties, duct tape, mace and other personal items.
Detectives said that Thomas is originally from South Carolina and they alleged that he traveled to Lutz for the express reason of committing the crime he had planned at Deville’s home. According to the HCSO, Thomas told law enforcement that he planned on taking “the homeowner” hostage.
Thomas Cyberstalked Deville For Years, According to Law Enforcement
Sheriff Chad Chronister said that Thomas, who was listed as a crew member at Applebee’s according to the Tampa Bay Times had cyberstalked Deville for years as part of his “disturbing obsession”:
Our deputies are unveiling the suspect’s disturbing obsession with this homeowner who he had never met, but stalked on social media for years. 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. Our deputies arrived within minutes and arrested this man who was clearly on a mission to inflict harm.
The Tampa Bay Times also reported that a Twitter profile with Thomas’ name and a profile picture that looks very similar to the mugshot released by HCSO features constant retweets of content about Deville.
Content featuring Deville dates back to April of 2019, the same month that the user created this particular Twitter profile, where he wrote. “This is gonna happen just watch go Sonya” with a blushing smiley-face emoji.
In another post, he responded to an account from “Not @SonyaDevilleWWE” complaining about not having FunYuns, to which he responded, eight days later, “I found them in my local Walmart so you’re in luck.”
On August 8, the person from that account also reached out to a Dr. Ron Holt on Twitter who is self-described as a “LGBTQ shrink.”
In a series of tweets, they wrote, “Can I please DM you?” then “I’m asking for your advice because I need a second opinion on something that could determine what happens next in my life.” Then again, “Can you please follow me so I can dm you? I’d like to ask for your advice on something if you don’t mind. Thanks for your time.”
The user from that profile also said, “But what if others think I’m not and I have no self-confidence or self-worth?”
However, in the following days, he was back on Twitter, responding to someone about onions and commenting more on Deville’s WWE performances.
Deville Assured Fans That She Was Safe Despite the ‘Frightening Experience’
Deville tweeted to her fans that she was ok despite the experience. Deville has been preparing for a WWE Summer Slam “Hair vs. Hair” challenge with her rival Mandy Rose, set to take place on August 24.
Deville costars on E! in a reality TV show called Total Divas with five other stars of WWE, including former UFC fighter Ronda Rousey. She also co-hosts a YouTube series called Damandyz Donutz.
Deville also owns her own clothing line, called Rainbow Love, which is described as “LGBTQ forward with strong emotional messages on the clothing,” by the Miami Herald.