TAMPA — For five or six minutes, the 75-year-old woman lay on the floor of her Seminole Heights home beaten and raped by a stranger, bound by her own phone cord and stockings, struggling to free herself.
Court documents obtained by the Times on Friday provide a glimpse into the terror police say the woman experienced at the hands of Joseph Frye, a convicted sex offender captured in the fall after a manhunt.
It was Friday, Aug. 28, 12:45 a.m. She was in bed watching television when she heard a noise in the living room. She turned down the volume. She heard it again, reached for her revolver and made her way down the hall.
She and the intruder startled each other, she later told Tampa police in a sworn statement. She didn't recognize him. He had a long, thin face and looked like he hadn't shaved in days. She held onto the gun with both hands as he charged. The two fell to the bathroom floor and continued to tussle over the gun.
The man won.
"You were gonna shoot me, weren't you b----?"
He held what she thought was a knife to her throat. Police later determined it was a screwdriver.
"Why were you going to shoot me?" she heard him ask. "I just want some booze. I know you have booze in the house."
She told him he could take whatever he wanted. He told her to return to her room and sit on the bed. He inspected her dressers.
"What else do you got?" she remembers him asking. "I see you got some medicine. What is it for?"
He asked if she had cancer or AIDS and took a bunch of bottles, including a full prescription for OxyContin and Tylenol with codeine.
"Why kind of jewelry you got? I see you got a lot of gold."
He took an envelope of cash and jewelry, including her gold wedding band, and made her give him the necklace she was wearing, a Greek Orthodox cross.
"I've been watching you and your daughter," he told her. "She comes to visit you all the time, doesn't she? If you don't want anything to happen to her or you, then you won't call the police and say anything. Somebody told me what you had, b----.
"I am not gonna rape you," he told her.
When it was over, he tied her hands together behind her back, tied her legs with a pair of jeans and tied her wrists to her feet.
He wanted a way to carry the alcohol. She told him to get a bag.
"And what do you have to eat in your fridge?"
Once he had collected everything, he asked her what she was going to do. She told him she would lay there until someone found her. He slapped her face and held a gun to her head.
"I'm not f------ scared," he told her. "I got three guys outside waiting for me. If you call, they will come back and kill you all."
That was the last she saw of him. By the time she freed herself and police were called, it was 2:53 a.m., more than two hours after it all began.
At first, police didn't have a suspect. The victim guided a sketch. They swabbed more than half a dozen men. On Sept. 1, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement alerted the police that DNA found at the scene matched a 49-year-old felon fresh out of prison, convicted two decades ago of raping a woman.
Joseph Frye was a wanted man.
Helicopters, canines and news trucks swarmed the bungalow-lined central Tampa neighborhood.
On Sept. 3, a man who had opened a newspaper at a McDonald's called the police. He recognized the photo. He'd partied the previous night with the man in a Florida avenue motel room. Frye had given him some jewelry, a ring.
The two drank whiskey and loaded and unloaded a revolver.
"It is loaded, locked, cocked and ready to rock," the witness told police.
He returned the ring and said they could find Frye at the Mayflower Motel, Room 15.
Frye told them he was the person they wanted, police reports say. And he told them where to find the gun. Police found an empty ladies' purse behind the refrigerator and a Bible on the bed.
Police say Frye confessed, but his statements were not included in the documents released Friday, among the discovery materials provided to Frye's attorney. A judge will review additional documents before allowing them to be released to the media.
In court, he pleaded not guilty. Doctors deemed him incompetent to stand trial. The proceeding has been put on hold temporarily while he receives treatment at a state hospital.
Alexandra Zayas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3354.