FROSTPROOF, Fla. - Deputies say a man went on a violent crime spree Tuesday - raping a woman, shooting an elderly woman in the foot, and fatally shooting another elderly woman in the head before trying to set her mobile home on fire.
The Polk County sheriff said Wednesday the suspect was still on the loose and might be willing to cause harm to himself, officers, and the public.
Law enforcement officers, from Florida to Georgia and across the southeast, are looking for 30-year-old Taiwan Blandin, who has been spotted in Winter Haven, Lakeland, and even Macon, Georgia.
Blandin, who is considered armed and dangerous, was last known to be driving the car of one of his victims - a red, 2011 Chevy Cruze with the Florida license plate number NAG K37.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said deputies have been able to put together most of what they believe happened Tuesday.
Judd said early Tuesday morning, Blandin showed up at his first victim's house in Fort Meade and broke in. The victim said she woke up to find Blandin standing naked, in front of her. He allegedly said he was going to rape her, but she resisted. That's when Blandin allegedly pulled a knife and held it to her throat while he raped her. The victim said Blandin grabbed two handguns and two shotguns from her home, bound her wrists and ankles, wrapped her in a blanket, put her in the backseat of her own car, and drove away.
She said they drove toward Frostproof, turning down dirt roads. They finally stopped at a dirt path where she said Blandin got out and opened a gate. They drove through, behind some bushes, to a mobile home. She said Blandin got out, knocked on the door, and spoke briefly to an elderly woman before going inside the mobile home with her.
The victim said she had been trying to remove the bindings from her arms and legs and, when Blandin went inside the mobile home, she broke free, got in the front seat, and took off. The victim told deputies Blandin had taken her cell phone, so she drove back to her house and asked a neighbor to use the phone so she could call for help.
Minutes later, the victim said Blandin sped up driving a red Chevy Cruze and opened fire. An 81-year-old neighbor of the first victim was shot in the foot. She is expected to recover, Judd said.
Blandin took off before deputies got there. As they spoke to the two victims, the first victim realized she knew Blandin. She told deputies Blandin and her ex-boyfriend once attended school together.
Once investigators pieced together where Blandin had taken the victim and whose car he was driving, they rushed to the mobile home where the first victim escaped. When they arrived, there was smoke coming from the residence.
Inside, they found the body of an 80-year-old woman, identified by neighbors to FOX 13 as Peggy Shiering, who was shot in the stomach and in the head. They also found household items stacked on top of the stovetop; an apparent attempt by Blandin to set the mobile home on fire, Judd said.
Outside of the mobile home, deputies found a trail of blood. That's when the discovered the victim's dog, named Kelly, hiding in some bushes. Kelly had apparently suffered a gunshot wound and had a broken leg. Judd said investigators believe the Shiering was holding her dog when she was shot in the stomach.
Ms. Peggy, as she was known to those in the community, was a great grandmother and substitute teacher at schools in Frostproof and Fort Meade.
The sheriff told reporters Wednesday it was difficult to describe the full extent of the destruction allegedly left by Blandin.
"It's been a long time since I've seen an absolute total disregard for life but Taiwan Blandin, for whatever reason, and we do not know what that reason is, went on a killing spree, and a sexual battery spree, yesterday," Judd said.
Blandin apparently made comments to family members, including his brother who Judd said is a baliff in Polk County, about his intentions. Blandin told his sister he was willing to commit suicide or provoke officers to fire at him, or even shoot at officers, Judd said.
"But here's what I want to make perfectly clear, and I have [made clear] to our law enforcement colleagues across the southeast... He's dangerous," Judd said. "When a man quits caring about himself and is ready to commit suicide, when he's ready to commit suicide by cop, or said that 'if the cops come to me, I'm gonna shoot them,' we take him at face value."
The Chevy Cruze thought to be driven by Blandin has been spotted in Lakeland, Winter Haven, and near Macon, Georgia, but Judd said, at this point, the suspect could be anywhere.
Blandin was described as a black male, 6 feet tall, and weighing 190 pounds.
Sheriff Judd warned if you see him, do not approach him. Anyone who sees the car or Blandin, or knows anything about the incidents in Fort Meade and Frostproof, is asked to contact the Heartland Crime Stoppers at 1-800-226-8477.