A man who broke into a woman’s home in Fort Myers, beating, stabbing and leaving her for dead, is responsible for a string of violent crimes – including the murder of a woman whose body was found earlier this week, according to deputies.
Antonio Thomas, 29, is accused of attacked Melinda Pensinger around 7 a.m. in her home on Michigan Avenue in Fort Myers.
After the brutal attack, Thomas allegedly stole the woman’s car and used it to try to abduct a 15-year-old girl.
He forced the girl into the trunk of the car he stole from Pensinger, according to deputies, but she was able to escape at a park near Marsh & Madison.
But that wasn’t Thomas’ first abduction attempt, according to investigators.
They have linked him to rape and murder of Phyllis Stein, whose body was found behind a North Fort Myers business on Wednesday.
Friends say 61-year-old Stein was washing her car outside her home on SE 1st Place in Cape Coral on Wednesday afternoon when she was abducted.
“These women were victimized in the middle of the day in front of open businesses. It’s nothing we’ve ever seen,” said Lt. Bill Kalstrom, with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Unit.
Officials say after she was raped and murdered, her body dumped behind the business.
Stein’s family says police asked them to go to the medical examiner’s office to identify her body.
Investigators found the car stolen from Pensinger around midday Friday at Palm Avenue and Indian Street. They later found Thomas in the Dunbar area.
Deputies say they have also connected Thomas to a carjacking attempt at the 7-Eleven at Pondella and Orange Grove in North Fort Myers, as well as a June 15th carjacking at an appliance store in Fort Myers.
Investigators say that woman was driven to Cape Coral, where she jumped out of the vehicle. Her car was later found in Fort Myers.
Sheriff Mike Scott says Thomas had a record, but it was all fairly minor drug crimes – he served time in state prison for dealing cocaine.
Scott said ‘something snapped’ and sent Thomas on the murderous spree.
“He has literally ravaged innocent victims in this community,” Sheriff Scott said. “This vicious individual, killer frankly, knew no boundaries. He has been taken off the street.”
All the crimes were random, according to investigators.
On Saturday morning, a judge ordered a combined $307,500 bond for 13 of Thomas’ 14 charges. However, he is being held on no bond on the remaining 1st degree murder charge.
His sentencing is set for July 23rd.