Man found guilty of battery, holding 14-year-old girl captive in his RV

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Daniel Joseph Thomas, 55, of Fort Myers, was found guilty of False Imprisonment of a Minor, two counts of Lewd and Lascivious Battery and one count of Interference with Custody following a three day trial in Lee County. The case went to the jury at 8:45 p.m. Thursday and the jury returned a verdict just before 11 p.m.

This crime involved an extensive community and law enforcement effort to ensure the recovery of a missing child who was gone for seven weeks. The victim, a then 14 year old girl, had been held captive by Thomas who had been a trusted family friend.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office, Collier County Sheriff’s Office, and Florida Department of Law Enforcement were involved in the search. Missing child posters were distributed throughout the area and online. Two local churches along with other community members got involved in the search for the victim.

Thomas had been hiding the victim in his RV, driving it between Collier and Lee County to keep the victim from being located. He would have her hide in the cupboards of the RV when anyone came near. The defendant was sexually assaulting the victim before and during the time he took her.

The defendant then decided the victim could go home and contacted a pastor to negotiate her recovery. The pastor went to the RV and found her. The defendant fled to Michigan and was extradited back to Lee County.

The State Attorney’s office said the victim testified at trial for a combined three hours about her ordeal and is doing well Friday.

Thomas faces up to 40 years in prison. Assistant State Attorney and Special Victim’s Unit Chief Francine Donnorummo and Assistant State Attorney Natalie Savino prosecuted the case.

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