September 23, 2014
After days on the run from the law, a career criminal is back behind bars.
Perry Lee Chance Jr., 53, was apprehended on Saturday in Columbia County by a trooper with the Florida Highway Patrol. He was booked into the Columbia County Jail in Lake City where he is being held without bond.
Chance is accused of beating and robbing an elderly Winter Haven store clerk on Tuesday. He will be brought back to Polk County later this week to face charges.
A couple days after the incident investigators identified Chance through surveillance footage from Elonka’s Fashions. A tip led authorities to the suspect’s location.
On Saturday the victim’s son Doug Sleeth showed his appreciation during a news conference announcing Chance’s arrest.
“Everybody that called in with all the tips helped so much,” he said. “I just feel so relieved now.”
Detectives with the Winter Haven Police Department say Chance was spotted Friday at a motel in St. Petersburg, but by the time officers with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement got to the location he was gone.
Fortunately he left behind a receipt from a local fast-food establishment. Through surveillance video from the restaurant investigators determined Chance was still driving the victim’s vehicle that he had taken during the commission of Tuesday’s crime.
The suspect had altered the appearance of the vehicle and changed the plate but now authorities knew what they were looking for and issued a BOLO – Be On The Lookout.
Charles Bird, WHPD’s chief, talked about Chance’s apprehension on Saturday afternoon.
“They [FHP] proceeded to follow him when he turned into a rest area driving the vehicle,” Bird explained. “He was arrested in the victim’s stolen vehicle.”
Investigators say the suspect took the woman’s key after he forced her into a back room of the fashion store. Chance beat the woman so badly that she now has a fractured back. He made off with her vehicle and an undisclosed amount of cash.
The injured woman was transported to Lakeland Regional Medical Center where she is listed in serious but stable condition.
“For being a little frail, a little 80-year-old lady [my mother] is very strong,” Sleeth said. “She’s a tough cookie, strong-willed definitely.”
Chance is no stranger to law enforcement. He’s been in and out of jail most of his adult life with an arrest record that goes back more than three decades. On Saturday Sleeth had a message for his mother’s attacker.
“You’re still a low-life scumbag and you are going to go back where you deserved to be [behind bars],” he said.
Law enforcement is so happy he was caught before he could hurt someone else. Chance had been spotted around other small businesses in the area before Tuesday’s attack.
Bird: “He had already escalated to a horrendous point beating our victim very severely. We were in fear he would do something like that again.”
Chance has served four stints in state prison for convictions out of Jefferson and Pinellas counties. He also has an extensive criminal record in Polk County with arrests for dealing in stolen property, drug possession, burglary, grand theft with a firearm and violation of probation.