VALRICO, Fla. (WFLA) — Detectives with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office say James Hanson, Jr. stole much more than just money when he allegedly robbed CenterState Bank in Valrico Tuesday morning.
He also took an innocent life.
Investigators say Hanson robbed the bank at gunpoint around 10:30 a.m. As he left, he ran into 68-year-old Mathew Korattiyil who he then carjacked according to detectives.
Nearly two hours later, deputies spotted Korattiyil’s stolen white Lexus SUV about a mile away from the bank near St. Cloud Avenue and State Road 60.
There was a chase, and then a crash ending with Hanson’s arrest…but still no sign of Korattiyil.
Roughly a hundred deputies and FBI agents combed the area until just before 4 p.m. when deputies found the victim’s body dumped behind the Sacred Heart Catholic Community Center, about five minutes away from the bank.
“We still have a lot of work to do to figure out what happened between the time the left here, to when we recovered the body,” explained HCSO Chief Deputy Donna Lusczynski. “Our thoughts go out to the family of our victim here.”
As Korattiyil’s friends flocked the Sacred Heart Catholic Community Center Tuesday afternoon seeking answers, they described their friend as a kind man who could not have deserved this less.
“A very gentle man, nobody can say anything wrong about him,” said longtime family friend Jomi Joseph.
Friends explain the community center where Korattiyil’s body was found is affiliated with the nearby church they all attend.
They say they’ll be leaning on their faith to get them through Tuesday’s tragedy.
Suspect James Hanson Jr. was in custody and being questioned by investigators as of Tuesday night.
Records show he has a lengthy criminal past in Florida and North Carolina, including armed robbery. Florida DOC records show he was just released from prison in early July.