Woman escapes captor after months of torture, authorities say

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — A woman escaped this week from a man who had kept her captive in Florida and spent months abusing and torturing her, leading to a high-speed chase that spanned two counties on Tuesday.

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Authorities arrested Walter Medina, 48, following a chase that topped 100 mph in Polk and Osceola counties, WFTV reported. He faces charges including attempted second-degree murder, armed false imprisonment and reckless driving damage to a person or property, officials said.

Hillsborough County deputies began investigating Monday after they were called to a Mobil gas station in Seffner. The caller reported that a woman had just escaped a van and needed help.

When deputies arrived, they found a woman with numerous injuries to her face and body, authorities said.

“I can’t imagine the torture this victim endured for months, but I can imagine the relief she felt when our deputies arrived,” Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said in a statement. “I have to commend the bravery of the victim for escaping her captor and seeking help.”

The woman told deputies that she met Medina while panhandling in January. At first, deputies said, Medina gave her food and narcotics. However, he later turned violent, attacking her with a wooden baseball bat and a flathead screwdriver.

The woman suffered injuries including broken ribs, deep puncture wounds and extensive bruising, officials said.

“Over the course of approximately 2.5 months, the victim endured unimaginable suffering at the hands of Medina as he forcibly transported her around the Tampa Bay area and threatened to kill her if she fled or sought help,” according to deputies.

She escaped after Medina briefly left her alone at a Walgreens, officials said.

Authorities got an arrest warrant for Medina and, the next day, police spotted him while he was driving a gold Chrysler Town and Country van. They tried to stop him, but he took off, leading them on a chase down Interstate 4.

The Florida Highway Patrol, which assisted in the chase, said Medina weaved in and out of traffic to try to shake officers off. When he reached an area with a lot of traffic, he began to drive on the shoulder of I-4 at more than 100 mph, and then weaved through traffic again, driving on both shoulders, officials said.

Troopers tried at least three times to perform precision immobilization techniques, or PIT maneuvers, to stop Medina, but they were unsuccessful. At one point, he struck the left side of another vehicle, but that didn’t stop him either, officials said.

He exited the interstate at John Young Parkway and eventually hit a raised median. Troopers ordered him to get out of the van, but said he refused. The Florida Highway Patrol deployed K-9 Rico, who apprehended him as he tried to flee, according to officials and WFTV.

“This suspect’s reign of violent terror is now over,” Chronister said on Tuesday.

Officials said Medina was taken to a hospital following the car chase. Jail records show he was booked into Orange County Jail later on Tuesday.

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