It was the beginning of an evening that would turn to be horrific.
Eight USF students had gathered to watch a football game in a Cambridge Woods apartment Thursday evening, when 24-year-old Charlie Christopher Bates walked in through an unlocked door with a gun around 10:30 p.m.
He bound the four men with duct tape and raped the four women, deputies from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) said.
If they told police, Bates told them he would kill them.
At 11 p.m., HCSO received a call from Florida Hospital: two of the women had sought treatment after being raped. The suspect had fled on foot.
Around the same time, a woman sat on her porch at her Eagle’s Point apartment on 46th Street. Bates walked up to her and forced her to go inside her apartment, remove her clothes and kiss him.
The woman began pleading and praying, HSCO deputies said, and Bates’ demeanor changed. He apologized and prayed with her before leaving her apartment. The woman tried to hand him a Bible on his way out but he refused to take it, so she tore out pages and gave them to him.
When he left, she called 911.
It wasn’t the first time Tampa Police Department, the law enforcement body that presides over the jurisdiction Eagle’s Point is located in, had heard of a case like this.
On Aug. 9, a man had broken into a woman’s home near Busch Boulevard and Rome Avenue through a backdoor. He forced the woman into a bedroom and asked her to disrobe. He threatened to rape and kill her.
She began praying and he left, taking cash and jewelry with him.
On his way, he cut himself on the glass he had broken to enter the house.
Police matched the DNA of blood found on the glass to Charlie Christopher Bates, a Lakeland man with tattoos on his arms and neck who had been arrested once for domestic violence in 2009 before charges were dropped and once this year for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia and for carrying a concealed weapon.
Police issued a warrant for Bates’ arrest.
Last Tuesday, a man invaded the home of a sleeping couple in Seminole Heights. He pistol whipped the man and raped the woman before leaving. The couple reported the incident to police Thursday.
Sometime between 11:30 p.m. and midnight Friday, K-9s and helicopters began searching the area. They stopped cabs and vehicles looking for a black male between 20 and 30 with medium length dreadlocks and tattoos.
Around 12:15 a.m., Bates knocked on Claudia Seijo’s apartment door.
She was turning 20 and had invited about 25 friends to her house.
When she opened the door, Bates walked in and seemed surprised, she said.
He held out a gun and forced them into her bedroom. Initially, Seijo said, the guests thought it must be a prank her fiance, Saurabh Gupta, a USF Ph.D. candidate in electrical engineering, was pulling on them.
But when Gupta entered the room, the look on his face told them, this wasn’t a prank.
Sharad Rastogi, a graduate student in management information systems, who was at the party remembers how scared he was. Bates asked them to kneel and put their cell phones in a place where he could see them, he said.
Rastogi said someone tried to call 911, but accidentally dropped their phone.
“He got really pissed off and angry,” Rastogi said.
Guests said Bates began asking whose phone it was. No one answered and Bates fired a shot into the ground.
“It lasted about half an hour, but it honestly felt like it lasted forever,” Seijo said. “When you are in a situation like that, your mind is just running different things…. Everything stops, time stops and all you keep thinking is ‘I’m going to die.’”
“You start thinking about your parents,” she said. “I thought about (my fiance) and thinking about how the guy I love is going to die in two seconds. You just freeze, you don’t know what is going to happen. Then you see a gun pointing at your friend, and you want to react, you want to leave, you want to save them, but at the same time you are stuck and can’t move. Your emotions are mixed up, you don’t know what to think, you don’t know what to feel, you don’t know what to say. You want to cry, but you don’t because you don’t want to make any noise or even breathe.”
Digvijay Patil, a graduate student in management information sciences, and Ashish Sharma, a senior majoring in management information sciences, were surprised when they arrived at the party, a birthday celebration for one of their friends — Seijo — at the apartment complex and no one opened the door. 12