A pair of Applebee’s customers in Wesley Chapel had more on their minds than food and drinks.
Pasco detectives say the duo watched a woman dining at the restaurant, then followed her to her friend’s apartment complex, which is 20 minutes away in Zephyrhills. While the woman was waiting outside in the parking lot, the woman in the picture approached her, slit her throat and stole her purse.
Heidi Farrell, a resident at the complex, learned what happened just outside her door around 4:30 a.m. on Sunday.
“We were sleeping and the Sheriff’s Office rang our doorbell at 4:30 in the morning,” Farrell said. “I guess a woman and man, like the girl slit her throat and took her purse. It was shocking.”
Detectives said the duo made off with a wallet, credit cards and other prized possessions and that the stolen cards were used at a number of stores in Hillsborough County.
Vivid surveillance images show the couple going on a shopping spree at a Walmart in Lutz.
On Wednesday, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office identified the female suspect as 27-year-old Jessica Lynn Steele, a former Ft. Pierce resident who is known to frequent Pasco and Hillsborough counties. Her partner in crime remains unidentified, deputies said.
“I feel sorry for what happened. It’s amazing it happened at Applebee’s,” said Harry Vandenbrink, a San Antonio resident who visited the Applebee’s for dinner.
Vandenbrink says he always remains vigilant while out in public.
“You look in the mirrors. I’m always conscientious. Driving the car. Watching the mirrors. Seeing who’s behind me.”
The victim declined to comment on the incident but tells News Channel 8 she is doing better.
Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay will give away $3,000 to anyone who provides information that leads to an arrest. Those with information on the couple’s whereabouts should call 1-800-873-8477 and reference case #18-13089.