Florida woman escapes captor after months of torture, sheriff says: 'Reign of violent terror is now over'


A Florida man with a history of violence was arrested Tuesday after a woman he allegedly kidnapped and brutally tortured for months found an opportunity to escape from his minivan, authorities said.

The victim had been panhandling near Hillsborough Avenue and Habana Avenue in Tampa since January, and she met 48-year-old Walter Medina around that time, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release on Tuesday. 

Medina initially gave the woman food and narcotics but soon his actions turned violent, subjecting the woman to “months of relentless physical abuse and captivity,” the sheriff’s office said.

Investigators said that Medina held the woman against her will for two and a half months. Medina allegedly used a wooden baseball bat and a flathead screwdriver to inflict broken ribs, deep puncture wounds and extensive bruising.

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Walter Medina mugshot

Walter Medina, 48, faces attempted second-degree murder and other charges after allegedly kidnapping a woman and torturing her for over two months. (Hillsborough County Sheriffs Office)

The suspect is also accused of driving the victim around the Tampa Bay area and threatening to kill her if she ran or sought help.

The woman finally found her opening to escape her alleged captor on Monday when he briefly left her unattended at a Walgreens, authorities said.

Deputies responded to a Mobil gas station in Seffner after a witness reported that an injured woman just escaped from a van and needed help. Deputies found the victim with numerous injuries to her face and body, and she was taken to a local hospital for medical treatment.

Walter Medina arrested

Medina was arrested after a high-speed chase across Polk and Osceola Counties on Tuesday. (Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office)

“I can’t imagine the torture this victim endured for months, but I can imagine the relief she felt when our deputies arrived,” Sheriff Chad Chronister said. “I have to commend the bravery of the victim for escaping her captor and seeking help. Our thoughts are with her as she recovers from this traumatic ordeal.”

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Medina, however, briefly eluded deputies until the following day.

On Tuesday, Medina led deputies, police and troopers on a high-speed chase in his gold Town and Country Ford van across Polk and Osceola Counties. Medina hit speeds of over 100 mph and weaved through traffic in his attempt to escape capture, the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) said.

Medina's minivan and trooper cruisers

The Florida Highway Patrol, Hillsborough County Sheriffs Office and Lakeland Police Department pursued the suspect and eventually apprehended him on Tuesday. (Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office)

Medina eventually struck a raised median, which disabled his vehicle. When he refused to comply with troopers’ orders to surrender, FHP said troopers deployed a K-9 to help apprehend him.

“This suspect’s reign of violent terror is now over,” Chronister said. “I am endlessly grateful for our law enforcement partners who put their lives on the line in service and protection of our community while apprehending this suspect. This joint effort exemplifies the strength of our community’s law enforcement network and our shared commitment to keeping our streets safe.”

Medina was charged with attempted second-degree murder, armed kidnapping, armed false imprisonment, aggravated battery with great bodily harm, tampering with a witness, and tampering with physical evidence.

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Medina had previously served time in prison for an earlier false imprisonment case and has an arrest history that includes charges of kidnapping, aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer and robbery.



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