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Bloomingdale rape jurors hear of victim's injuries, see defendant's video trail

TAMPA — Just before a weekend break from trial, prosecutors left jurors with the image of a young woman they had not yet seen, the Bloomingdale library rape victim.

She was 18, with prom on her mind, when something happened to her on April 24, 2008, something so horrible that she now relies on a tube to eat and caretakers to move. Her neurosurgeon and occupational therapist chronicled her life since that night.

The first time Dr. Siveiro Agazzi saw her, she was in a coma. Her eye socket and nose were fractured. Her oxygen-deprived brain, swelling.

At some point, less than a day after the attack, she awoke. But then, she slipped into a persistent vegetative state. She regained consciousness, but it was obvious some of her brain cells had died.

Her occupational therapist Cheryl Zemina last saw her on Sunday. She sat her at the edge of her bed and held her up. The young woman can't sit up by herself. She can hold up her head, but just for moments at a time. She also can't speak.

Zemina's daughter is one of the victim's best friends. Prosecutors asked if before the attack, the victim could speak.

"All the time," Zemina said.

"Did she eat?"

Zemina smiled. "All the time."

The victim's sister cried during medical testimony. So did some of the victim's friends.

Jurors saw photos, before and after. They may have noticed a pink rubber bracelet on prosecutor Rita Peters' hand. It said Everybody's daughter, everybody's friend. 4-28-08.

Earlier Friday, testimony focused on the young man accused of causing all that damage, 19-year-old Kendrick Morris. He entered the courtroom that morning, glanced at the empty benches behind him and shook his head.

Jurors spent the morning watching surveillance video of Morris on the night of the attack, wandering the aisles of a Walmart alone.

While the video itself doesn't seem like much — Morris perusing greeting cards, examining electronics — how jurors interpret it will establish Morris' whereabouts that night.

Jurors heard two different stories about that piece of evidence, which they learned was imperfect.

If they believe the defense, Morris went to Walmart twice the night of the rape, once at 11:34 p.m. and once an hour before that, at 10:22 p.m. That first time is only seven minutes after the attack started at the library, more than a mile away.

The defense raises a question: Would Morris have had enough time to attack a young woman at a book drop, move her to a field behind a library, rape her and casually stroll into the store?

If jurors believe prosecutors, that answer is yes, because their witnesses say Morris only went to Walmart once that night, at 11:34 p.m. He was never there at 10:22 p.m. The time stamp, they say, is wrong.

Here's the explanation:

Four cameras over the doors show Morris walking in at 10:22 p.m. and exiting at 11:06 p.m. All other store cameras show him walking the aisles after 11:34 p.m. Power surges often cause cameras to fall out of time, testified Walmart loss prevention coordinator Roberto Soto.

He said all the cameras capture only one trip, and that Morris entered Walmart only once, more than an hour after the rape.

To prove that, prosecutors pointed out a man in white shorts entering the store just before Morris. The man is pictured shopping at 10:22 p.m. or after 11:30 p.m., depending on the video.

That means nothing, the defense says. Walmart is open 24 hours. That man could've been there until 4 a.m.

All the confusion over the time stamps could have been solved with video of the store aisles at 10:22 p.m.

But that doesn't exist.

During a store renovation last year, all other video surveillance was destroyed.

The store only kept video that a Hillsborough County Sheriff's detective flagged as evidence. And Detective Gary Harris testified that he didn't look at any video before 11 p.m. He said he didn't know about a time discrepancy in the surveillance videos until April of this year.

In his opening statements Wednesday, Morris' public defender Rocky Brancato called Harris "reckless."

Harris said he decided what Walmart footage to seek after he spoke to another detective who captured video of Morris at a nearby McDonald's between 11:09 p.m. and 11:28 p.m.

Morris called for a cab at 12:16 a.m.

His mother had been in jail for the past three nights, charged with driving without a valid license. Jail records show she was released the night of the rape, at 9:43 p.m. Morris was seen outside the closed library around that time.

He was alone, sitting on a bench. Witnesses assumed he was waiting for a ride.

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at azayas@sptimes.com or (813) 310-2081.

Bloomingdale rape jurors hear of victim's injuries, see defendant's video trail 10/01/10 [Last modified: Friday, October 1, 2010 10:50pm]
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