JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Police are looking for a fugitive they said abducted a woman Saturday evening while she was delivering a pizza on Jacksonville's Westside, then attempted to rob a Dollar General in Union County.
Authorities said a 26-year-old woman, who works at a Papa John's Pizza, said she was sent to deliver a pizza to a home on Lane Avenue about 6 p.m. The woman told deputies she was already uncomfortable before arriving to the address because she was instructed not to come to the front door. When she got there, she found an abandoned residence.
Police said she was confronted by Cornelius Ruise III, who was armed with a rifle. Ruise pointed the gun at her and forced her into the passenger seat.
The woman told police they drove to a secluded area on a side street, where he forced her into the trunk of her car.
Police said Ruise told her he intended to go to Lake City to kill someone and that he would give the car back afterward.
As they were heading west on Interstate 10, they came up on State Road 121 in Macclenny. As the woman felt the car slow down as he was preparing to exit, she pulled the emergency release handle and jumped out of the trunk onto the highway in front of several witnesses, according to Baker County deputies. Baker County Sheriff Joey Dobson said the woman was taken to the hospital for treatment of scrapes and bruises.
Baker County deputies said Ruise drove the woman’s car to Union County, where he attempted to rob a Dollar General.
After Ruise attempted to rob the Dollar General, he visited family members in Lake Butler, who told police he bragged about the robbery and kidnapping.
Before leaving, family members told police that Ruise made mention that he still planned on driving to Lake City, but intended on “torching the car” first.
Shortly after, Baker County deputies responded to a car fire near Quail Lane in Macclenny – an area police said Ruise used to frequent in the past. After arriving, deputies confirmed the car belonged to the kidnapped woman.
Dee Watkins said he smelled smoke and heard people yelling that a car was on fire, so he started broadcasting on Facebook live. He said when he got to the car he was shocked to see flames ripping through all of the windows.
"By the time I got here, (police) came within the next five minutes," Watkins said. "One of the police officers pulled in the path and pulled up behind the car, and they’re, like, 'Back up. Back up. The car is about to blow.'"
Baker County deputies said Ruise’s ex-girlfriend said she was in contact with him just moments before speaking with police. She told deputies Ruise was at his mother’s house in Margaretta.
Deputies said investigators pinged Ruise’s cellphone. The resulting location was in a wooded area near his mother’s house. Investigators searched the area, but were unable to find Ruise.
Family members told police they think Ruise may be staying in the Margaretta area or Lake City to see the mother of his children.
The woman's manager at Papa John's told News4Jax they have policies in place for drivers' safety.
“We have policies in place so the drivers understand what to do, and then the managers have actions that they can take to help prevent things like that from happening," Papa John's manager Mike Perry said. "We feel like we did those things to the best of our ability.”
Ruise's family made a heartfelt plea Sunday night, asking him to turn himself into police. They said they are heartbroken and that this is not like him at all. They’re afraid if he doesn't turn himself in and police find him first, he’ll either be injured or killed, and they say they can’t handle that.
“My brother wasn’t raised like this," Ruise's sister, Shaontae Watts, said. "We were raised together. It was always me and my brother. He’s never been in a situation like this. I don’t know. Whatever drug he’s on, whatever he’s on, it’s a powerful drug.”
Ruise's family said no matter what the circumstances, they're going to be there for him and want him to turn himself in so he can face responsibility safely.
“Do it for me. Please, Nele, do it for me," his mother, Tenia Ruise, said. "I’m not getting any younger, I’m getting older. Please, I’m begging you, Nele, please. Call me. Tell me where you're at. We’ll come and get you. Please, that’s all I ask of you, Nele. Please turn yourself in.”
Ruise’s ex-girlfriend told police he is aware that officers are looking for him and will not surrender.
Ruise is a convicted drug dealer who served six years in prison.
Ruise's family members extended a heartfelt apology to the abducted woman.