NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. - An internet romance that turned into a brutal attack and robbery provides another reminder that online relationships may not be as they seem.
On Friday, deputies with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office says Bobbie Jo Curtis, her teenage son, and a friend, Vanessa Musson, tied up a man Curtis met online, beat him with a bat, and robbed him at gunpoint.
The victim, Joseph Bruno, remains in the hospital with possible permanent damage from the attack. The trio is also accused of attacking his neighbor with a bat when he tried to intervene.
The Curtises are in custody, but Musson, who has a long criminal history, is still on the run.
"We have already had to send our SWAT team out once to a location we thought she was at, and when we find other locations we are prepared to send our SWAT team out again because she's proven she can be violent," said Sheriff Chris Nocco.
While this kind of brutal attack is rare, investigators say criminals lurking on dating web sites is not.
"Feelings and emotions can make you do things that you don't normally do," said Cpl. Bruce Crumpler, who works in the economic crimes division at the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.
Crumpler recently handled a case where a man met a series of women through dating web sites and fooled them into thinking they were in love -- then ran off with their money.
"I equate it to opening a door to anybody. If someone knocks on the door and you don't know who they are, are you going to open it up and let them in?" He said. "It's the same thing with the internet and computer."
Crumpler says if you do decide on a face-to-face meeting with someone from a dating web site, take a friend along and meet in public places for at least the first few dates.
As the case from Pasco County shows, not everyone is truly looking for love.
"I believe there's definitely a danger factor that's higher than what most people think there are when it comes to meeting a stranger online," Crumpler said.
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