GoFundMe page under review after ABC Action News investigates recipient's background

Man convicted of manslaughter, arson in New York
Posted at 11:35 PM, May 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-09 02:42:52-04

Newly-uncovered details about a local man's past has some questioning hundreds of dollars of donations now going to his family after a devastating fire. 

Chris and Penny Hardy spoke to ABC Action News Monday about a weekend fire that destroyed their trailer and torched the property off E. Fowler Avenue in Thonotosassa. 

"I was just kind of rebuilding it to hopefully sell it within the next year and make back some profit to get us a better home," Chris told reporter Sarina Fazan. 

But a tip led ABC Action News to investigate Chris' background. Florida Department of Corrections page states that Chris "Hardy" is really Chris Bayer. 

The former Long Island resident was convicted of second-degree manslaughter and arson a decade ago.  

State records show Bayer served time for strangling a woman during what he called "rough sex."

Bayer then told cops he set fire to her home to try and cover it up. 

Chris' fiancee, Penny Hardy, told ABC Action News reporter Ryan Smith by phone that Chris is a changed man who now goes by her last name. 

"He's trying to start his life over," said Penny Hardy. 

We asked about the GoFundMe page to help them rebuild their home, and if the people who donated nearly $1,700 should be concerned Bayer withheld his real name and did not mention the felony probation. 

"It's not misleading because he does plan on changing his name when we get married," said Penny. "You can't hold that against somebody when they're trying to make their life better."

One neighbor is confident those donations are going to a good cause.

"I believe that God gives everybody a second chance and I think Chris and Penny deserve a second chance," said Conniann Frye. 

Hillsborough County fire investigators are trying to determine what exactly caused the blaze. 

ABC Action News has learned, Bayer did register his Florida address with the New York State Department of Corrections. 

A spokesperson from GoFundMe tells ABC Action News, donations already made are on hold while the campaign is under review.