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(NECN/WTSP: Brandon, Fla.) - A 46-year-old Tampa Bay man faces federal charges after allegedly attempting to open the cabin door of Delta Flight 2148 while in the air, then allegedly threatening to blow up the plan.
His ex-wife, Mary Sheffield, said Sheffield use to be a happy, outgoing guy, until bi-polar disorder took over his life five years ago. She assumes it is behind his outburst Thursday night aboard a cross-country flight bound for Tampa, which was diverted to New Mexico.
"I've never seen him this bad," Mary said. "This whole situation has just floored me -- mentally, he just becomes someone else. I can't imagine what happened on the plane to set him off."
According to a criminal complaint, Sheffield -- who has spent recent years between homes, jobs and jails in Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties -- started spraying water on passengers aboard the flight. The complaint stated that he thought a flight attendant was "Satan," made bomb threats and tried to open the aircraft's main door, which will not open mid-flight.
It took eight passengers, including Tampa Bay Rays color commentator Kevin Kennedy, to subdue him.
Sheffield was on his way back to Tampa after spending most of the week in California visiting his sick mother.
But his ex-wife believes his family could not deal with him once the stress-activated symptoms of his disorder kicked in.
"Threatening the kids, and threatening one of his brothers. That's not normally Stanley," Mary said.
But there were other indications Stanley might have had trouble aboard a plane. On his flight from Tampa out west, he was not allowed to re-board the plane during a layover in Denver. Police were called to the United terminal because of an incident between Sheffield and some employees. Police did not make an arrest, instead helping Sheffield find a Southwest Airlines flight to Los Angeles.
He stayed out of trouble until Thursday night, when he forced the Delta flight diversion, and wound up behind bars in Albuquerque.
His ex-wife hopes it is actually a step in the right direction for Stanley, and their teenage children.
"Get him some help. Get him the treatment he needs to be the father that he used to be -- the man that he used to be," she said. "He needs help."
Sheffield will remain in an Albuquerque jail through the weekend. He will go before a judge again on Monday.
WTSP's Noah Pransky reports in the video player above.