Luis Antonio Santiago-Maldonado has been charged with first-degree murder after allegedly running over his girlfriend, Belinda Joyce Thomas, in front of her children (all pictured) in Pinellas Park, Fla., the Tampa Bay Times reports.
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On Saturday morning, Santiago got into an argument with his girlfriend, 36-year-old Belinda Joyce Thomas. He reportedly suspected that she had been cheating on him with another man. The argument reportedly turned violent and forced Thomas and her three children out of the house they shared with Santiago. Santiago hopped in a vehicle and, 20-feet from the house, ran her down. Thomas’ elementary school-aged children reportedly saw the deadly collision.
The couple met a year ago and were happy, according to friends and family. Before Santiago met Thomas, he had reportedly gotten about $14,000 in retirement money from his years working at Publix. His friend, Felix Rivera, says Santiago spent most of it on Thomas and her children.
But this summer, their relationship began taking a turn for the worst, according to the Bay Times:
Santiago told Rivera he believed Thomas had taken advantage of him. He suspected she was interested in another man. She kicked him out nearly every day. He seemed consumed by depression. Rivera said the police were called, but Santiago was never arrested.
He’d had problems like this before. Court records show Santiago’s past includes trespassing and DUI charges. His most recent arrest was for domestic battery in 2010. He pleaded no contest and was sentenced to probation.
Santiago’s family and friends say he was a good man, but a bad drunk. Alcohol made him mean. It made him crazy.
Two months ago, Rivera said, Santiago spotted a cable wire attached to the back of the couple’s house and wrapped it around his neck. When Rivera found him, his face had already turned blue.
Rivera, 50, said his friend was committed to a hospital for mental evaluation under the Baker Act.
Santiago’s relationship with Thomas only worsened.
Friday afternoon, Rivera said, Santiago told him he had caught her talking to another man on the phone. Rivera begged him to get a hotel room for the night.
“This,” Rivera told him, “is going to end up ugly.”
Unfortunately, it ended up fatal. Santiago has been charged with first-degree murder and is being held the Pinellas County Jail without bond.