Crime Stoppers call leads to arrest, closure in Tampa case

6:00 PM, Jun 8, 2013   |    comments
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TAMPA, Florida -- A 22-year-old who was recently released from prison is behind bars once again after Hillsborough County detectives say he ransacked the home of a retired deputy and avoided capture for six months.

Jason Cash is accused of stealing cash and $400 worth of personal belongings, along with causing $6,000 worth of damage inside the home of former Hillsborough County Deputy Phillip Puleo.

"It was in such a mess that it was devastating," Puleo describes the inside of his house after it was burglarized in December.

It was a mess made in just minutes, but it's taken months to clean up. 

A computer that was ripped apart "had pictures of my grandkids, my babies, and now they're lost," he says.

The burglar even tried breaking Puleo's surveillance system, but a neighbor was able to put it back together and capture clear images of the suspect's face.

"I was having nightmares where this individual was standing over me watching me sleep," he says. "I got physically sick to my stomach because I knew who the individual was. I knew he had been up and down this street for the last two months."

He didn't know the man's name, so he passed the case onto Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay, which got the surveillance video and photos out through their website and social media. 

Puleo also spent months trying to gather leads, making and hanging signs with the suspect's face on them. For six months, he heard nothing. Then, one of those homemade posters caught someone's eye.

"That was critical to someone actually seeing that photo and knowing who it was and calling Crime Stoppers with the information," says Deputy Lisa Haber, law enforcement coordinator for Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay. 

Since the arrest, Puleo has added a fourth camera to his surveillance system. An alarm has been installed in his home, and he can now see images from the cameras on his cell phone. He encourages others to do the same.

Haber also urges people who are going out of town for the summer to make their houses look like activity is still going on, asking neighbors to collect their mail and installing timers to turn indoor lights on and off throughout the day. 

The biggest message Puleo would like to communicate is one of gratitude for the anonymous person who called Crime Stoppers with the crucial tip.

"If it wasn't for them," he says, "this guy would still be out there committing burglaries."

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