A veteran Florida sheriff’s deputy tried to murder a 79-year-old woman he had befriended during a fraud scheme in which he made out checks in her name and gave away her dog, investigators allege.
Authorities claim Frankie Eugene Bybee — an 18-year member of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office — broke into the victim’s home on Jan. 12 and force-fed her pills before leaving her unconscious with her car running in the garage.
He “attempted to kill the victim and make it appear to be a suicide,” the Sarasota sheriff’s office alleged in a statement to PEOPLE.
Bybee, 46, was arrested Monday and faces several criminal charges, including forgery and attempted murder. He has been investigated five times since joining the sheriff’s office and has been suspended multiple times, the sheriff’s office said.
The victim originally came forward on Dec. 20, weeks before she was attacked, to claim Bybee was harassing her. He had befriended her in late October, after responding to her home on a service call, the sheriff’s office said.
“Bybee began making regular visits to the victim’s home while on- and off-duty and also introduced the victim to several members of his family,” according to the statement.
Authorities allege that on Jan. 9, four of the victim’s personal checks, totaling $65,000, were made out to Bybee and his three children. But the woman told investigators she had never written those checks.
Forensic scientists were able to pull fingerprints from the checks and matched that evidence to Bybee, the sheriff’s office statement alleges. Bybee was suspended without pay.
Investigators also discovered that Bybee had previously taken temporary possession of the victim’s dog and was given $1,000 “in the event that the dog had any medical needs while the victim was away.” But, instead of minding the dog, Bybee allegedly deposited the check into his personal bank account and then “rehomed” the pet — giving the animal away on Craigslist.
“The victim told detectives that Bybee only had permission to watch the dog while she was away and was not entitled to keep or sell it,” the sheriff’s office said. The dog was later located and returned.
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In January, three days after the allegedly fraudulent checks were created, the victim claimed that Bybee came to her home in dark clothing, wearing latex gloves, and forced her to the floor inside. She accused him of “[forcing] prescription medication in her mouth, causing lacerations and abrasions to her face, and bruising to her body.”
The victim passed out from the pills and when she awoke, called 911.
Investigators determined her home had filled with carbon monoxide “after the internal door to her garage was left open and her car was left running.”
Bybee is charged with attempted murder, battery, burglary, exploitation of the elderly, grand theft, forgery and petit theft. He is being held on $1 million bond. He is next scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 24.
“To use that uniform to be sent to her home to provide her help and then exploit it is unacceptable,” Sarasota Sheriff Tom Knight said at a news conference Monday.
Court records do not indicate if Bybee has hired an attorney. He has not entered a plea to his charges.
Investigators urge anyone who may have been victimized by Bybee to call 941-861-4932 or 941-861-4935.