A woman was kidnapped Wednesday in Jacksonville, then escaped as the bloody suspect scuffled with a St. Johns County deputy and stole another's SUV before a chase ended in an I-95 crash.
A woman's kidnapping in Jacksonville, a pursuit near St. Augustine, then another in an officer's stolen SUV ended in a crash and the bloody suspect in custody Wednesday. Matthew Earl Bennett, 35, was facing a slew of charges but died Thursday, the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office said.
The incidents began with an incident with his estranged wife, and then just before 6 p.m. on Butler Boulevard near Hodges Boulevard he crashed a Hyundai, and several other drivers stopped to help, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said. He went to two of the drivers and asked if he could borrow their cars, apparently injured as he asked one if she could "stitch up my forehead" before taking a Toyota Corolla with a 44-year-old woman inside. The car's owner went with another driver to try to follow them but lost sight at Interstate 295.
St. Johns County deputies received an alert from Jacksonville saying the driver had been involved in "a series of criminal events in Duval County, where he is believed to have sustained his injuries."
About 6:30 p.m. Bennett pulled off Interstate 95 on Florida 16, right near a deputy in his parked cruiser, St. Johns County Sheriff's Office Chuck Mulligan said. He pulled next to the deputy, then "locked up the brakes and slid to a stop." Bennett, covered in blood, got out as the woman ran away.
The deputy tried to help, but Bennett wiped blood off his face and flung it at him as well as spitting on him, the arrest report said. Bennett ran into traffic and tried to steal a car parked at the traffic light, Mulligan said.
The deputy again tried to stop him, but the suspect became very confrontational and ran across Florida 16, where the deputy tried to handcuff him, Mulligan said. An off-duty lieutenant in his unmarked SUV rolled up to help. But Bennett broke free from the deputy and took the lieutenant's SUV, speeding onto southbound I-95, Mulligan said.
Deputies chased Bennett to the Florida 206 exit area, where one of them bumped the stolen SUV and spun it to a stop after it hit other cruisers that had been in pursuit, Mulligan said. While Bennett had "significant injuries" when pulled out, Mulligan said those did not occur when St. Johns County deputies spun it to a stop. Bennett was secured and rushed to a hospital.
Deputies exposed to Bennett's blood during the struggle and after the chase were checked out at the hospital as a precaution, Mulligan said.
Court records Bennett, of the 3600 block of Brockway Road Jacksonville, was arrested in June on a charge of violating an injunction for protection filed by his estranged wife last year. She filed for divorce Nov. 13, 2018. In January a man whom she works for also filed a stalking injunction against him.
Dan Scanlan: (904) 359-4549