A Florida woman went into the bathroom Thursday evening at a Big Lots in Port Charlotte — and didn’t come out. At least not in the same way she came in.
According to a police report from the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, deputies responding to a shoplifting call at around 7:30 p..m. made contact with a store employee. He told the deputy that a woman had been observed entering the bathroom with about $60 worth of merchandise in a cart.
The woman, later identified as Kristina Perkins, was told that she had to leave the bathroom and said “she would be right out,” read the complaint.
After several minutes, the employee entered the bathroom and saw two locked stalls and a large grate missing from the ceiling right above the toilets. The employee heard movement above, and called authorities.
Deputies listened for noises above their heads and heard scurrying noises and were able to see the woman hiding in the ceiling through a small opening.
Perkins ignored their commands to come down and crawled to a different area, still about 20 feet above the actual store.
Charlotte County Fire/EMS arrived with a ladder and thermal imaging equipment and began searching for “several hours” while the store shut down to customers.
Movement was heard in several areas of the ceiling as the woman moved around and deputies removed parts of the ceiling searching for her, the report said.
At around 9:45 p.m., Perkins’ left shoe was recovered. At 10:45 p.m. a scissor lift was brought in for a “more thorough search.”
But it was futile.
Just after midnight Friday, the rescue crew ended the search. The store was in disarray. The ceiling, drywall and tiles had major damage, estimated at about $5,000, according to the report.
After the crew left, a deputy who remained at the Big Lots saw Perkins emerge at around 1:30 a.m. from the ceiling and climb over shelves to get back on the ground.
When asked why she hid in the ceiling for hours, the suspect responded, “I ran because I was scared!”
The 37-year-old was arrested and charged with felony criminal mischief, petit theft, resisting a merchant, resisting law enforcement without violence and possession (deputies say her purse contained three syringes and a spoon with residue that tested positive for morphine).
Perkins remains behind bars at the Charlotte County Jail, in a cell, not the ceiling.