Wednesday, February 21, 2018
News Roundup

Jury finds Virgil DeBose guilty of rape, murder of 78-year-old woman

LARGO — For about two minutes Friday morning, the prosecutor delivered his closing argument from the courtroom floor.

Fred Schaub, his back against the carpet, was simulating 78-year-old Audrey Mulligan's perspective during her rape six years ago. The attack was so violent it broke her hip and pelvis.

Virgil DeBose, unflinching, watched from the defense table a few feet away.

"This man," Schaub said, pointing up at him, "did that."

Mulligan's injuries sent her to the hospital, where she contracted an infection that killed her. Her death, Schaub said, made DeBose a murderer.

A 12-person jury agreed. They took just two hours to find him guilty of burglary, sexual battery and felony murder. He received life sentences for all three counts.

On March 12, 2007, DeBose knocked on the door of Mulligan's Paradise Shores condo to ask for a glass of water. She let him in, believing he was one of the roofers working at the complex. Once inside, he attacked.

She screamed and tried to knee him in the groin. Amid the struggle, he landed on top of her.

"Will you forgive me?'' he asked. "Please forgive me."

Mulligan told him she never would.

"Go straight to hell," she said.

As he fled, she called 911.

With an overwhelming amount of evidence that DeBose assaulted Mulligan — his semen found at the scene, his fingerprints discovered on a newspaper in her apartment, surveillance video placing him in the area — his defense attorney, Keith Hammond, did little during the trial this week to refute the rape or burglary accusations.

In his closing argument, Hammond essentially conceded both charges.

"We've got a mountain of evidence here," he said Friday.

Still, he insisted that prosecutors hadn't proven beyond a reasonable doubt that his client was a killer.

"There's no evidence of murder," he said. "There's proof that she died of a bacterial infection. That's the direct cause."

But Schaub repeatedly pointed to a key piece of testimony given by a defense expert.

At issue has been whether prosecutors could prove Mulligan caught the infection at a facility where she was being treated for her injuries.

The defense expert, Schaub reminded jurors again and again, acknowledged that Mulligan could have caught the infection only at St. Petersburg General Hospital or Pinellas Park Care and Rehabilitation Center, both places she visited solely because of the attack.

"Once he said this, it's done," Schaub told the court. "It's easy. It's common sense."

Information from Times files contributed to this report. John Woodrow Cox can be reached at [email protected]tampabay.com.

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