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Man is accused of torching car

The Mazda Miata belongs to his ex-girlfriend.

By JONATHAN ABEL
Published July 15, 2007


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PALM HARBOR - Randall Stalnaker lived in Georgia and worked in South Carolina.

His 57-year-old ex-girlfriend, Bonnie Busby, lived in a quiet condo complex in Palm Harbor.

Ever since their split in February, they had been feuding over a pickup, authorities said, and in the last few weeks Stalnaker had left 30 threatening messages on Busby's phone.

But on Thursday, the situation exploded when Stalnaker drove from South Carolina to Busby's home at 1804 Lennox Road E in Palm Harbor.

He arrived just after 8 p.m. and banged on the door, according to authorities. Busby wouldn't let him in so he took a jug of gasoline and emptied it on Busby's gray Mazda Miata convertible.

He set it ablaze; she called 911.

The explosion shook the two-story complex and sent glass flying across the parking lot. Flames left nothing but warped wires and metal on the Miata. It also scarred the paint on Busby's other car, parked next door. It also charred parts of two condos.

Frank Torres, who lives upstairs next door to Busby, said he saw flames 30 to 40 feet off the ground.

He also saw a medium blue PT Cruiser screeching out of the parking lot - a description he passed on to deputies.

Twenty-four minutes after the explosion, at 8:28 p.m., deputies stopped Stalnaker at the intersection of Burbank Road and Tampa Road in Oldsmar.

The 34-year-old of Statesboro, Ga., was charged with four counts of arson and one count of aggravated domestic stalking. On Friday, Stalnaker was being held in the Pinellas County Jail in lieu of $220,000.

Deputies had been to Busby's home only once before, on Dec. 16, for "family trouble." They are still investigating what exactly caused Stalnaker to drive hundreds of miles on Thursday to her home.

For her part, Busby filed paperwork in court on Friday for domestic violence protection - a motion that her neighbor thought was long overdue.

Torres said he had counseled her to get a restraining order but she told him it wouldn't do any good.

"Thank God he didn't take her life," he said. "He lives in Georgia, so if he's coming here he did it for a reason."

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Jonathan Abel can be reached at jabel@sptimes.com or 727 445-4157.

[Last modified July 14, 2007, 20:52:17]


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