ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Rebecca Neisler and Katelynn Martin live in the same neighborhood and share the same terrifying story. Over the weekend, both women were awake and encountered an intruder, believed to be an area transient.
Around 8 a.m., Neisler said she heard sounds coming from a nearby door. Seconds later, she saw the man.
“He just jumped for my throat, started strangling me. Within ten seconds had me on the floor, pushed me back into my office. Once he was on top of me, he just choked harder and harder,” she recalled.
He left the home, then went back inside.
Neisler was terrified because her two kids, ages 8 and 9, were asleep upstairs. Thankfully the man took off. She said he tried to steal a Jeep in the driveway, but could not because it was a stick shift and he was unable to drive it.
Shockingly, Neisler told 8 On Your Side she remembered the man from a few days before when he asked her for $20, which she denied.
“So when he entered my house I immediately knew this was the man who said he prayed for me as if he knew what was going to happen to me.”
Shortly after the break in at Neisler’s home, the man went a couple of blocks away.
“He charged up the steps and he was just off the landing and he was like charging upwards with the sword,” said Katelynn Martin, the homeowner.
Martin said the man used a decorative sword from her home to threaten her. She managed to shoe him away.
Martin said the man stole a truck which was later found in Hillsborough County.
“My son was here. My partner was asleep. I’m grateful that’s all he wanted,” Martin said, referring to the truck.
In a twist, Martin said she used to live in Neisler’s place, but moved down the street recently. She said she believes she was targeted.
Neisler said she identified the man from a photo line up, provided by police.
According to the St. Petersburg Police Department, a male suspect stole a car from a St. Pete dealership Wednesday. When police were able to find the car, they also found the suspect. Once he was arrested, police identified him as 38-year-old Derrick Malone, the same suspect in the two home invasions.
Investigations are still underway for the auto thefts and home invasions, as well as potentially other crimes.