Civil suit against dead Plant City businessman accused of raping teen heads to trial

Local News

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – An 18-year-old is demanding justice after she says she was raped by local businessman who later committed suicide. 

“I have struggled with depression, cutting, I was suicidal. It’s been hard for my family and me,” said Payton Crowl.

Crowl claims when she was barely a teenager, she was raped by J.W. Thomas, the co-founder of QGS Development and Quality Turf in Plant City. It took her some time to tell her family, but when she finally did, her stepfather, who is Thomas’ nephew, confronted him. 

Thomas committed suicide in Jan. 2014 before deputies could ask him about the allegation, according to a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office report. 

All of those involved in the incident lived just a few houses apart.

“It’s hard I walk outside I can see the house. Where I work, two of the family members live on that road. So it’s hard,” Crowl said.

Her attorneys sued Thomas’ estate along with his insurance company. For the past five years, they’ve been going back with the company and his estate to get the case settled or in court. After several failed mediations and many delays, it will go to trial in November.

Payton tells News Channel 8 that she and her family filed the action for one specific reason.

“I just want to move from the area really. We can’t move. And we tried selling our place we tried getting out, but we can’t. School was hard for me. I just want to move from the area really.”

When News Channel 8 stopped by QGS Development and Quality Turf on Sunday and Thomas’ son said they didn’t have a comment. 

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