Fla. Deputies Nab Fugitive Hiding in Ceiling Thanks to Cellphone Ring

June 18, 2024
When a suspect wanted on multiple charges tried hiding from Polk County deputies in the ceiling of a Lakeland business, he found that the worst partner in crime is a cellphone with the ringer still on.

A fugitive hiding in a Florida business unwittingly gave away his location when he forgot to turn off his cell phone, investigators say.

It rang at just the right time — or just the wrong time — depending on your perspective.

The awkward moment happened around 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 15, as deputies were searching Big Fish Bait and Tackle in Lakeland, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said. Lakeland is about a 35-mile drive northeast from Tampa.

A “disturbance” had been reported near the shop and it was determined the 38-year-old suspect was also wanted on charges including trafficking in stolen goods, officials said in a June 17 news release.

“Deputies went to a business nearby where (the suspect) is employed. When they got there, they were able to confirm that (he) was seen entering the business, but never leaving,” the sheriff’s office said.

“The deputies conducted a quick search of the building, but didn’t find him.”

Polk County Fire Rescue was then summoned to survey the site with a FLIR camera, which can detect heat sources through walls. They, too, came up empty, officials said.

That’s when deputies noticed ceiling tiles that were “disturbed,” and then they heard the sound of a cell phone ringing in the ceiling.

“They spotted a hand sticking out from under the insulation,” the sheriff’s office reported.

“Thankfully, the hand was attached to a body — and not just some random disembodied hand. That would have taken this situation into a whole other direction.”

The suspect was removed from the ceiling and charged with:

  • Resisting an officer
  • Felony criminal mischief (for causing about $1,000 on damage to his employer’s ceiling)
  • Multiple counts of violation of probation for burglary, providing false information to a pawnbroker, and trafficking in stolen property.


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