A scary incident took place at the home of professional wrestler Daria Berenato, known by her stage name Sonya Deville, on Aug. 16.
Authorities in Lutz, Florida responded to a break-in at a house owned by the WWE star and after apprehending the suspect, learned of a plot several months in the making. Here’s more on what we know about the suspect, his plan, and what Deville has said following his arrest.
Who is Sonya Deville?
Deville’s career with WWE began after she competed on the reality series Tough Enough. In 2015, she appeared on season 6 of the show and was the third contestant eliminated but ended up signing a contract with the company’s developmental brand NXT.
According to her WWE profile, the New Jersey native has a background in mixed martial arts and in December 2015, made her in-ring wrestling debut against superstar Nia Jax. Two years later, Deville joined forces with Mandy Rose and Paige to form the trio Absolution. Paige later retired and became the Smackdown general manager. Both Deville and Rose moved to Smackdown following the organization’s Superstar Shake-up in 2018.
Deville has fought in several WWE events and is slated to compete in a match against Rose at SummerSlam on Aug. 23.
Deville also stars on the E! series Total Divas and is the WWE’s first openly gay female wrestler.
Police say the suspect was ‘obsessed,’ wanted to kidnap Deville
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said that when deputies responded to Deville’s home on Aug. 16 they found a 24-year-old man identified as Phillip A. Thomas inside the residence.
The Tampa Bay Times reported that authorities said Thomas traveled from South Carolina and arrived at the wrestling performer’s property around midnight. According to investigators, he cut a hole in a patio screen and allegedly watched and listened to the two people inside through the windows while waiting for hours until they went to bed. Police say he entered the house around 2:45 a.m. and tripped an alarm at which point the occupants fled and called 911.
Police arrived and when they arrested Thomas found a knife, plastic zip ties, duct tape, and mace. Detectives said that Thomas allegedly confessed that he had intended to kidnap and take Deville hostage.
A Twitter account believed to be the suspect’s features numerous posts about Deville and her activities as well as several retweets from her account.
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister released a statement that read, “Our deputies are unveiling the suspect’s disturbing obsession with this homeowner who he had never met, but stalked on social media for years.”
Deville spoke out after the arrest was made
Following the news of Thomas’ arrest, Deville took to social media to assure fans that she was OK and thanked the responding officers.
Thomas noted that his last place of employment was an Applebee’s restaurant in South Carolina. He has been charged with aggravated stalking, armed burglary of a dwelling, attempted armed kidnapping, and criminal mischief.
“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,” Chronister said.