Gulf Breeze man accused of serial sexual abuse

Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s deputies arrested a sex offender living in Gulf Breeze after multiple victims that had been in his custody as children accused him of sexual abuse.

Thomas Lawlis

Thomas Lawlis, 55, was previously registered as a sex offender. According to the arrest report, Lawlis had been convicted of sexual battery in 1998 in Escambia County.

In November 2016, a victim that had previously lived with Lawlis as a child told deputies he had sexually assaulted her between the ages of 4 and 17 years old. The abuse included vaginal and oral sex according to the report.

She said Lawlis would use grounding and money to coerce her compliance.

According to her sworn statement, the victim had suffered multiple health concerns due to the abuse including vaginal trauma, polcystic ovarian syndrome and irregular menstruation. She had to have labiaplasty and other surgeries as well.

The victim has also had therapy on and off since 2011. She has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, major depressive disorder and anxiety.

Lawlis had moved to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, so deputies contacted the local police department to make contact with Lawlis.

In January, another victim came forward who had previously lived with Lawlis in Tennessee when she was 17. She said Lawlis touched her inappropriately without her consent and had vaginal sex with her without her consent multiple times over a three- to four-month period.

In a sworn interview, Lawlis adamantly denied the allegations the report said.

In February, Lawlis allegedly came to Santa Rosa County for more than 48 hours without registering with the sheriff’s office.

Lawlis was arrested Feb. 14 on felony sexual assault and felony failure to reregister as a sexual offender.

He remains in Santa Rosa County Jail on $505,000 bond.

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