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Dunnellon man charged with stealing car in Wisconsin

Paul Sterling Clay

A Dunnellon man is accused of stealing a car in Wisconsin and abandoning it in the Rainbow Lake Estates community.

Paul Sterling Clay, 36, of 19034 SW 51st Lane, was charged with stealing the white 2009 Hyundai Sonata, which was found in the vicinity of SW Carp Road and SW Marine Boulevard. A resident of the neighborhood told a Marion County sheriff’s deputy the car was not there at sunset on Sunday, but he saw it at around 3 a.m. Monday. The resident said the vehicle was not occupied and its parking lights were on, according to the sheriff’s office report.

The car did not have a license plate attached to it, but the vehicle identification number showed it was reported stolen out of Brown County, Wis., on June 20. The car’s owner named Clay as a possible suspect and the Brown County Sheriff’s Office provided a photograph of him, the report said.

Another deputy went to the nearby BP gas station, located at 4750 S. U.S. Highway 41, to view surveillance footage, which showed the vehicle arriving at the store at 2 a.m. and staying there for about 30 minutes. The video showed the vehicle was occupied by a black male driver and a white female passenger. The male in the video matched the photograph of Clay provided by Wisconsin authorities, according to the report.

Clay and the female were detained while walking southbound on U.S. Highway 41. After being read his Miranda rights, Clay first denied any knowledge of the stolen vehicle but later said someone named “Zach Cuss” had stolen the vehicle from “Nate,” which was the name of the car’s owner, the report said.

Clay said “Zach” had borrowed the vehicle but it was not stolen. Clay also said he advised “Nate” to report the car stolen. He said “Zach” had allowed him to drive the vehicle and then let to go to Tampa, according to the report.

The female passenger said Clay is her boyfriend and they purchased the vehicle in Wisconsin about two months ago from someone named “Josh” off the Facebook marketplace for $2,500. She said they drove to Dunnellon two or three days after buying the vehicle. The passenger said she and Clay had gone to the BP station and then driven further back into the Rainbow Lakes Estates subdivision to find a private spot to have sex, the report said.

The passenger said while they were driving out of the community, the vehicle broke down and they left it where it was eventually recovered. She said Clay threw the vehicle’s license tag and keys into a field because a friend had told them the vehicle was stolen. The passenger was detained on an active warrant out of Wisconsin, according to the report.

Clay is being held in the Marion County Jail on $10,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in Marion County Court on Aug. 4.

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