Two men charged with attempted murder in connection with incident in Pinecraft church parking lot

Victim allegedly was run over by a truck and then beaten with a wooden stick

This church parking lot in Pinecraft allegedly is the scene of an attempted murder. Image from Google Maps

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office has charged two Sarasota men with attempted murder in connection with an incident that occurred early on the morning of March 7 in the Amish and Mennonite community of Pinecraft, the office has announced.

Charles Joseph Blair, 24, and Robert Daniel Decola Jr., 36, were arrested on March 8 for allegedly striking a man with their truck, beating him “and leaving him severely injured” in the parking lot of a church located at 1087 Beneva Road, a Sheriff’s Office report says. The victim has a Kumquat Court address near downtown Sarasota, the report notes.

Charles Blair. Photo courtesy Sheriff’s Office

Deputies first responded to an area near the intersection of Beneva Road and Bahia Vista Street in Sarasota just before 2 a.m. on March 7 after receiving initial reports of a vehicle crash with injuries, the release explains. They eventually found the victim at a residence in the 1000 block of Beneva Road, the report notes. The 39-year-old man had four lacerations on his head, a broken nose, a broken right arm and “abrasions about his body,” the report adds.

The victim needed 25 staples at the hospital to close the head wounds, the report notes.

According to the victim, the two suspects drove their pickup truck into the parking lot where the victim was sitting on his bicycle, the release says. Decola and Blair allegedly struck the victim with the vehicle multiple times before they exited it and began beating the victim with a wooden stick, the report says. The victim provided a description of the truck to deputies, and then he was transported to Sarasota Memorial Hospital, the release adds.

A detective later located the crime scene, the report continues; he found the victim’s bicycle, with “significant damage” visible.

Additionally, the detective talked with the resident at the address where the officers found the victim, the report continues. The resident said he saw the victim about 1 a.m. “in good health,” but the victim returned to the dwelling about 1:40 a.m. with injuries, the report adds.

Robert Decola Jr. Photo courtesy Sheriff’s Office

Later, the detective interviewed the victim at the hospital, the report continues. The victim said he had ridden his bicycle to a church parking lot to charge his cell phone, the report adds. He then identified the two suspects and said Blair was driving the truck, the report says. The victim also told the detective that he “heard Decola yell to Blair,” telling Blair, “‘[R]un him over,’” the report continues.

About noon on March 7, Tactical Unit deputies located the suspects and their truck, the report says. A visual inspection of the vehicle “confirmed signs of damage and what [appeared] to be blood on the hood,” which was consistent with the victim’s statements, the report notes.

The truck was marked with a decal advertising Black Dog Tree Service, where both suspects are employed, the news release says.

Decola allegedly admitted to a detective that he and Blair were involved in the incident with the victim in the church parking lot, the report adds, and he allegedly provided details about the beating.

Decola and Blair remained in custody without bond on March 8, the news release says.