LAKELAND – It started with phone calls made to a woman who lives in Lakeland.
The woman’s first assumption was that the man calling her, demanding to speak to their child and threatening her if she didn’t comply, wasn’t someone she needed to worry about.
After all, the man calling her, she assumed, was in a prison cell down in Miami, a safe distance from her.
Only, as it turned out, he wasn’t. He was dangerously close by in Lakeland, and he even left a message for her warning the woman that she had “better hide because he left the [detention] center and he is coming for her.”
Thomas Parker, 21, of Miami, was arrested on Thursday by Polk County Sheriff’s Deputies after he escaped from the Miami-Dade North Work Release Program on Dec. 31.
He’ll be held in the Polk County Jail until he gets released back into the custody of Miami-Dade authorities.
Parker was originally arrested in Polk County in 2008 and sentenced to two years and 10 months on a charge of grand theft motor vehicle and transporting forged bills.
As part of his sentence, the Florida Department of Corrections transferred Parker to the work release program, but he escaped from it on the last day of the year, said Carrie Eleazer, the public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
The fugitive appears to have made his way to Lakeland, she said, to target the woman who was the mother of his child, since he began calling – and, Eleazer said, harassing her.
“He started calling her, demanding to talk to the child they had together, and she refused,” Eleazer said. “She thought he was in jail, but then she saw that he was calling from different numbers, and that’s when she got scared and called us.”
Eleazer said Parker began threatening to hurt the woman when she refused to let him speak to the child.
They were able to track down the suspect in the Lakeland area, and he was arrested without incident, she said.
Polk County Sheriff’s Office deputies and agents assigned to the U.S. Marshals Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force were able to apprehend the Miami man together. He was charged in Polk County with aggravated stalking, as well as the out-of-county warrant for the escape.
Eleazer said her office would not be releasing to the public the location where Parker was when he got arrested.
“The marshall’s office doesn’t like to release specific details about that,” she said. “They’re trying to protect the identity of the woman.”
This joint effort by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Marshall’s office turned into a situation where the investigation was initiated by the sheriff’s office, after the victim contacted deputies.
But Eleazer said it mainly works the other way.
“Usually the marshalls call us,” she said. “Usually the opposite happens. I did a release a few months ago when three men escaped from a prison in Alabama, and the U.S. Marshall’s Task Force in Alabama contacted us here and said, ‘Hey, he’s in Auburndale.’ We actually have a deputy assigned to the task force.”
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