DADE CITY — Inside a small interview room at the county jail, Jathniel McMichael sat down with sheriff's detectives investigating two recent rapes and robberies of women in Zephyrhills.
McMichael, barely 18 years old, clearly knew something about the crimes. He laid most of the blame on his friend, Bobby Lee Black III. But eventually, he admitted his own role.
The first woman who was attacked, a 66-year-old living alone in a mobile home, said two men woke her in her bed early March 1, 2007, threatened her with a knife and took turns raping her.
McMichael told sheriff's Detective Sharon Foshey that he and Black climbed in the house through a window. McMichael said Black, also 18, was calling the shots.
Black grabbed most of the woman's things. Black raped her first, McMichael said in the recorded interview.
"Did you have a condom on?" Foshey asked.
"Um, yes, ma'am," McMichael answered.
McMichael, now 21, is on trial this week, charged with sexual battery, home invasion robbery and battery on a person over 65 in the first rape. He faces a maximum of life in prison if convicted. The statements he gave detectives were played in the courtroom Tuesday.
He is also charged with kidnapping and home invasion robbery in the second attack.
Prosecutors said he and Black broke into that woman's mobile home on March 27, 2007, to rob her. They took her to a bank in her van, and on the way Black raped her, authorities say. After getting money from an ATM, they drove her to a water-filled quarry, threw her in and pushed her van in behind her.
The victim in the first rape testified Monday. The second victim took the stand Tuesday. Her testimony was intended to show similarities between the crimes. Neither woman could identify the attackers because they wore masks.
The second victim, who was 68 at the time, described her ordeal to jurors — beginning with a window shattering in her house, then the rape in the back of the van and ending as she dug around in the quarry water for her glasses.
She said she looked up to the edge of the pit and saw the headlights of her van coming toward her.
"They pushed the car right in. If I hadn't moved when I did … it was intended to kill me," she said. "I felt the wind off of it as it passed by me."
McMichael corroborated much of her version in a second interview with detectives, which was also played for the jury Tuesday.
While Black sexually assaulted the woman, McMichael told the detectives, he drove.
"I was trying to say 'hey, man, chill out,' " he said on the tape.
After they got the money, Black got back in the driver's seat and told McMichael to get out his knife.
McMichael said he held it against the woman's chest, but couldn't kill her.
"I couldn't do it. I couldn't do it," he said. "Honestly, sir, I couldn't do it."
McMichael's attorney, Scott Davis, pressed Pasco Sheriff's Sgt. Mel Eakley on his interviewing style. On the tape, he and Sgt. Jim Sessa, at turns, told McMichael that they wanted him to get a "fair shot," but then warned him that he could be raped in prison if he didn't tell the truth.
"There is something to say for people who cooperate," Eakley told him.
Molly Moorhead can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6245.