Kidnapping leaves neighbors uneasy
By TIM GRANT, Times Staff Writer
CARROLLWOOD -- Homeowners in Carrollwood Village were unnerved when violence touched their community this week, but most people feel it was an isolated event.
The quiet streets of Carrollwood Village were the scene of a massive manhunt early Thursday as dozens of sheriff's deputies searched for a 17-year-old girl who had been kidnapped hours earlier from the Millennium Garden Park. The ordeal ended when the kidnapper shot himself after deputies cornered him on Middlepark Drive.
There is no indication that the 22-year-old gunman, Steven Allen Williams of Lutz, knew the victim. Police say he hid in the woods behind the park gazebo for up to two hours before he approached the teen and her former boyfriend.
The attack has left some homeowners unsure how safe it is to jog the streets or walk their pets in the predawn hours before daybreak.
"I don't feel very comfortable right now at all," said Marcia Sussman, who has lived on Middlepark Drive for 17 years. "I think security needs to be tightened in this neighborhood."
Carrollwood Village has more security than most neighborhoods. Not only are the manicured streets patrolled by the private security firm Wackenhut, the three homeowners associations in this community have contracts with off-duty sheriff's deputies.
Off-duty deputies patrol Carrollwood Village in eight-hour shifts seven days a week at various times. Their job is primarily traffic enforcement, but they are responsible for all types of law enforcement, according to the community's newsletter.
Carrollwood Village Phase II Board member Kelly Knetsch was among those who earlier this summer supported hiring off-duty deputies.
"Security is always our biggest concern," she said. "You have to be careful. But I don't feel any less safe because of one random act of violence that came into our neighborhood."
Knetsch said Wackenhut does not work with the deputies. When the deputies are on duty, Wackenhut is off duty.
Still, even with the added security, deputies say Williams was able to stash his car behind the Village Corners Shopping Center around 9 p.m., walk along South Village Drive and hide in the woods behind the Millennium Garden Park while he stalked the couple.
Police said that at about 11 p.m., Williams pulled a gun on the pair. Williams got into the back seat of the girl's car and ordered her to drive. Her friend called 911.
Karl Siegfried, a Hillsborough County trail ranger, was listening to Thunder 103.5 on his way to work about 6:25 a.m. Thursday when he saw the car as it was being described on the radio.
A co-worker called 911 while Siegfried followed the car into Carrollwood Village.
Some residents have suggested that lights be installed or that the woods surrounding the park gazebo be trimmed or that the park hours be limited.
John Miley, a Carrollwood Village resident who played a key role in creating the park, said he opposes any modifications to the park because he believes the kidnapping was an isolated incident.
"Short of putting a platoon of Marines on every block, I don't know what anybody can do to totally eliminate crime," Miley said. "We have public streets and occasionally something happens here that happens everyday in some neighborhoods.
"The good news is these kinds of things don't happen here except every blue moon. It might not happen again for 20 years."
Carrollwood Village property manager Dan Ruskiewicz declined to be interviewed.
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