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Lakeland ex-con hid in tree after trying to steal truck: deputies

TBO.com Tribune staff
Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 11:07 AM

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Polk County deputies said they have arrested a man recently released from prison after finding him hiding in a tree after trying to steal a vehicle

According to the sheriff's office, this is what happened:

About 4 p.m. Monday, the owner of a Dodge pickup and his 8-year-old son came out of the Highland City Publix, 5185 U.S. Highway 98 S., and saw a man in the driver's seat of his vehicle, tampering with the ignition. The owner shouted at the man, who jumped out of the truck and fled east through the parking lot.

The truck owner and another man in the parking lot gave chase. The owner left his son and cart with the wife of the other customer.

The suspect ran across Highway 98 to the median where he pulled a 12-inch-long object, brandished it at the victim and shouted, "If you follow me, I'll gut you!" The suspect then fled across Highway 98 toward the north side of the Feed & Supply store at the highway and Clubhouse Road, and jumped the fence into a pasture.

Deputies soon arrived and found 32-year-old Ronald Nichols hiding in a tree in the pasture. Deputies found his T-shirt and a long screwdriver along the fence line of the feed store.

Nichols is charged with aggravated assault, burglary of a conveyance, attempted grand theft of a motor vehicle, possession of burglary tools, and trespass, deputies said.

Nichols was released from state prison Dec. 14, 2012, where he was serving a 5-year sentence for grand theft, uttering a forged instrument, forgery, motor vehicle theft, and burglary, deputies said. He has previous arrests and convictions for attempted burglary, burglary, grand theft, fraudulent use of ID, motor vehicle theft and other charges.

Nichols has been in and out of prison four times beginning in 2001, deputies said.

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