It was a mistake that Maria Orihuela says nearly cost her, her life.
On Monday, Orihuela was shopping at Huracan Supermarket at 402 Sligh Avenue. After she loaded her groceries in her car and was getting into the driver’s seat a man approached her for help.
“He told me his car broke down and he needed to pick up his daughter at school,” Orihuela said. “I told him I can’t give you a ride I don’t know you.”
"He said, no don't be afraid. I'm a good guy I believe in the Lord, trust me,” Orihuela said.
Orihuela said as soon as he mentioned the Lord, she felt compelled to help him.
As the man got into Orihuela’s car he asked her to drive to a nearby school. Once they got there she says he told her to keep driving. Then he asked her to pull over and let him out, but Orihuela said another car drove by and he again told her to take her somewhere else. Orihuela said she didn’t understand what was going on but didn’t feel in danger.
“He even said to me you have to be careful who you pick up, there are a lot of bad people,” Orihuela said.
Once they got to a spot near the Coastal Gas Station at 3115 Nebraska Avenue Orihuela realized she’d picked up a very bad man.
“He pushed the gear to park, turned the car off, got the key and he already had my purse,” Orihuela said. “He said, ‘how much money you have’ I said ‘I don't have too much money sir.’ He yelled ‘how much money do you have.’”
He told her to get out of the car, she locked it from the inside, but the carjacker had the keys and just opened it. With a broken right ankle (from a previous injury) Orihuela said she stumbled out of the car.
“I started to pray, to be honest with you, and I asked the Lord to protect me,” Orihuela said.
The man jumped in the car and drove off. Orihuela was left hobbling on the side of the road with no purse, no car, and no phone to call for help. Finally, someone at the gas station called 911.
The worst part, Orihuela said the Tampa Police officers didn’t believe her story. They asked what really happened and if she was out buying drugs.
“I said believe me, I trusted him,” Orihuela said. “The police she said ‘how in the world do you give a ride to a guy you didn't know?’ And I said, ‘I understand that, that’s my problem. I believed him’ and she said ‘you are lucky to be alive today.’”
Wanted to be a good Christian or not, Orihuela said she will never let anyone she doesn't know in her car again.
There is a $3,000 Crime Stoppers of Tampa Bay is offering a $3,000 reward. You can remain anonymous. Just call 1-800-873-TIPS (8477).
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