Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Indictment of Fast allows for execution


EAST MANATEE -- Thomas L. Fast stalked his parents for days, talking to relatives and others to track down their whereabouts.

He was desperate to find his father, Bruce Fast, and his stepmother, Susan, whom family members say he has long disliked.

The Fasts were away on a business trip in the Bahamas. Susan returned home, alone, and Thomas Fast confronted her a day later, authorities say.

"He was literally waiting for her. He had the whole thing figured out -- his story and everything," a source familiar with the investigation told the Herald-Tribune.

Fast ambushed his 60-year-old stepmother in her home in East Manatee, cutting her neck from behind, according to the source. She bled to death. Her arms and legs were cut off and wrapped in towels and blankets.

A grand jury Tuesday indicted Fast on a first-degree murder charge, allowing the state the opportunity to pursue the death penalty. Manatee County's chief homicide prosecutor, Art Brown, said the state did not make an immediate decision about seeking the death penalty after securing the indictment.

Fast, 52, whom family members call a mentally ill drifter, killed his stepmother by "cutting or stabbing" her, according to charging documents filed Tuesday.

Bruce Fast, the defendant's father, said he wants his son to die for the murder.

"I don't think there will ever be any comfort because I don't have Susan," said Bruce Fast, 74, a construction contractor who co-owned a company with his wife of more than 30 years.

Central to the case, which generated national attention as investigators and volunteers searched for weeks for clues in Susan Fast's disappearance, is whether Thomas Fast is mentally fit to stand trial.

Two mental health experts have been appointed to examine Fast, whose mother is a clinical psychologist in Englewood.

His attorney, Assistant Public Defender Franklin Roberts, said Fast suffers from a mental illness and is prone to bizarre thought patterns.

Thomas Fast, a former paramedic in the military who later worked as an embalmer in Florida, made specific cuts into his stepmother's body, the source said. Susan Fast's legs were cut at her knees.

"What this man did is beyond understanding," the source said, calling details of the crime gruesome and nauseating.

The angle of the wounds on Susan Fast's neck shows she was cut by a person standing behind her, the source said.

Her body, exposed to the elements for more than three weeks before it was discovered in a pond, was somewhat preserved because it had been wrapped in sheets and contained in a plastic bag.

Family members say Fast has long disliked his stepmother, who reportedly stood in the way of an inheritance.

Susan Fast had spent a week in the Bahamas with her husband and returned home the night of June 28. Her husband returned to Florida the following night.

Bruce Fast suspected something was wrong as he called his home number while he drove across the state.

He dispatched a friend to the home. The lights were on. But Susan was not there. And her car was missing.

When Bruce Fast arrived, he immediately reported Susan missing.

The house was immaculate. The rugs were vacuumed, leaving no trace of usually-abundant dog hairs. Kitchen knives had been washed.

Bruce Fast drove around the neighborhood and found his son's pickup truck abandoned at a shopping plaza close to the Fast home in the Tara subdivision.

Susan Fast was killed in her home, detectives believe. There is evidence that blood was smeared -- and later cleaned up -- on tiles.

Authorities say Thomas Fast drove around East Manatee County discarding evidence and looking for a place to dump his stepmother's remains.

Detectives are reviewing a surveillance video from a bank that recorded a Lexus matching the description of Susan Fast's vehicle. There is a lone driver who appears to be male. The image was recorded about 8 p.m. on June 29 -- just hours after Susan was last known to be alive.

Investigators used global positioning data from Susan Fast's Lexus sport-utility vehicle to track the movement of the car.

Thomas Fast, according to police, parked the car at a vacant house in East Bradenton, and he walked away.

A teenager in the neighborhood told police he saw a man walking from the vehicle carrying two duffel bags. The witness later identified Fast in a photo line-up, court records show.

Authorities reportedly found a bottle of a cleaning solution and a towel from the Fast home in a garbage can in the neighborhood.

Fast was arrested in the predawn hours of June 30 after returning to his pickup truck in East Manatee. He was charged with carrying a concealed firearm.

Fast spoke at length with sheriff's detectives, but his story changed constantly, the source told the Herald-Tribune. There was no consistency. Detectives told him to focus.

"He's not insane. He's faking a good story right now," Bruce Fast said Tuesday. "He's a damn good liar. He's been that way his whole life."

The grand jury indictment, a necessary step in Florida for the state to pursue a death sentence, also charged Fast with robbery.

He is accused of stealing some of his stepmother's jewelry.

Fast, authorities say, has admitted being at his stepmother's home just hours before she was reported missing.

Authorities found blood in Thomas Fast's pickup truck in addition to handcuffs, a knife and plastic zip-ties.

Detectives say they found Susan Fast's jewelry stuffed inside a bar of deodorant that belonged to Thomas Fast.

The deodorant, according to investigators, was found in one of two duffel bags Thomas Fast was carrying when he was arrested.

Last modified: August 22. 2007 4:37AM

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