For some, stealing cars and setting them on fire may be guilty-pleasured dreams that are usually only played out in movies and video games. Several men are now in custody, however, after making this fantasy become a reality.
According to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO), Blake Butler, 20, of Zephyrhills; Taylor Hodge, 21, of Brooksville; and Wesley Chapel residet Stephen John Shea, 20, were arrested on October 6 in connection with a vehicle that was reported stolen from a Wesley Chapel home on September 19 and found burned in a heavily wooded mud pit in Hillsborough County on September 24.
The report says the white Chevrolet Lumina was stolen from a residence on Iverson Dr. in Meadow Pointe. Shea — who was already on probation at the time of the incident — told deputies after being read his Miranda rights that Butler and Hodge (also on probation) stole the vehicle and picked him up shortly after. The trio then traveled in the car to a rural area in Hillsborough. After getting the car stuck in thick mud, the men wiped the car for fingerprints and left it burning.
Through interviews, PCSO deputies identified the three men as suspects and each was arrested. Hodge was identified on surveillance video while attempting to break into another vehicle and was wanted for both attempted burglary and grand theft auto when a deputy attempted to arrest him. Hodge fled and hid in a retention pond near County Line Rd. and Mansfield Blvd in Wesley Chapel. He was eventually taken into custody and found to be in possession of marijuana, gun ammunition and Alprazolam (Xanax) pills.
All three men were still being held at our press time at the Land O’ Lakes detention center. Butler and Shea are each being held on a $5,000 bond for grand theft auto, although Shea also has been charged with violation of probation. Hodge is being held on a $22,450 bond for attempted auto burglary, grand theft auto, being a felon in possession of ammunition, resisting arrest without violence, possession of marijuana and illegal possession of a controlled substance.