LARGO — The crime drew national attention at the height of the housing boom, when everyone seemed to be buying and selling, and real estate agents scrambled to keep up.
St. Petersburg Realtor Julie Roberts was lured into a home in 2006 by a man who claimed to be house-hunting. Instead he attacked her and robbed her of credit cards and jewelry.
Nearly six years passed as the armed robbery and battery case against James Parcher meandered through the legal system.
But on Wednesday, after her long and frustrating wait, Roberts finally got the chance to tell a jury how her attacker hit her "so hard it made me see stars and I came right out of my shoes."
It started in March 2006, when Roberts, then with Century 21, got a call from a man who said he had just come into an inheritance and wanted to look at houses. And he said he wanted to see vacant homes — so he could move in more quickly, he said.
The man said his name was Craig, but authorities say it really was James Parcher, now 32.
Roberts showed him five houses in St. Petersburg. In a bedroom in the fifth house, in the 1200 block of 14th Street N, the man attacked her from behind by hitting her in the head with a pistol, she said.
She took "two lunging steps forward and fell, pretty much on my nose, all the way across the room," she testified Wednesday
He put his knee on her back, pulled her hands behind her and cuffed her with plastic ties. In the process, her elbow was fractured. Meanwhile he told her in a matter-of-fact voice, "be quiet or I'm going to kill you, don't say anything or I'll shoot you," she said.
"I asked him if this was a rape, a robbery or a murder," Roberts testified. He told her it was a robbery, and she saw that he had both a gun and what looked like a hunting knife. He took about $7,000 in jewelry, she said.
Eventually, he left. She jumped out a bedroom window and ran to a neighboring house.
Parcher's attorney, Ben DeBerg, asked questions about her identification of Parcher as the attacker. But under questioning by Assistant State Attorney Scott Rosenwasser, she said that after spending four hours with the man, there was no doubt it was Parcher who attacked her. The attack took about 15 minutes, and "15 minutes is a long time to be terrified," she said.
Parcher was arrested after using Roberts' ATM card in Tampa, according to police.
Part of the reason this 2006 case took so long to come to trial was that Parcher was represented by attorneys from the publicly financed Regional Office of Conflict Counsel, during a time of high turnover, so his case went from lawyer to lawyer to lawyer. Then he began representing himself and filed several motions on his own behalf, which stretched the proceedings even longer.
During the trial, Parcher has been represented by DeBerg, for the Regional Counsel's office.
Roberts said she has gotten out of real estate and now works for an airline.
Curtis Krueger can be reached at (727) 893-8232 or [email protected]