Tigers' Verlander victim of Polk Co. crime spree

Posted at 6:55 PM, Feb 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-26 18:55:19-05

The man accused of car jacking a Lakeland driver at gun point this week has now been linked to a major crime spree in Polk County.

One of his victims: Lakeland's most famous part-time resident, Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander.

Verlander, in Lakeland for spring training, was catching a movie at Lakeside Village over the weekend. Investigators say he came out to find the temporary paper tag on his truck was stolen.

"Just a crime of opportunity. Quick and it was there," said Sgt. Gary Gross with the Lakeland Police Department.

Verlander told detectives he thought it maybe blew away in the wind, but it later turned up in a pile of other stolen items that police tracked back to Tyler Demalignon.

Police arrested Demalignon on Monday after they say he car jacked Lakeland resident Todd Bixby at gunpoint.

"The first thought in your mind is that you're going to die. Your life is about to end," Bixby said.

He thought he was helping a stranded driver early Monday morning, but the next thing he knows he's starring down the barrel of a shotgun and getting ordered around.

"There's nothing that you can say or do. If the gentlemen wanted to shoot me he could have shot me in a heartbeat," he said.

It turns out Demalignon picked a bad car to steal -- one equipped with GPS. Police tracked him down and arrested him without incident.

During their investigation, detectives found a pile of stolen items -- including Verlander's temporary tag -- in Demalignon's possession.

They say he's also responsible for stealing more than $1000 in electronics, clothes and other valuables from cars.

He's also accused in three carjackings, including Bixby's, the one that ultimately ended his run.

"Fortunately they caught the gentlemen. You just don't know how far he was willing to take it. Or what would have happened next time," Bixby said.

For his part, Verlander tweeted this morning: "True story!! #Crazy #ImInnocent #Wasntme".