TAMPA — She was a 75-year-old widow, but "she was no shrinking wallflower," a prosecutor said Tuesday. When awakened by a noise in the night, she was cool and determined. She grabbed her .357 Magnum and got up to investigate.
"I wasn't scared," she testified. "I was mad."
But she was no match, a jury was told, for a 49-year-old convicted rapist named Joseph Frye, who had spent half his life in prison.
In a struggle in a dark hallway, the victim recalled, she stuck the gun in his face. She said Frye cried, "Are you going to shoot me?" She answered, "Yes." She pulled at the trigger.
But Frye, she said, had his hand on the cylinder, and the gun wouldn't fire.
Frye later told a detective: "I'm not even supposed to be alive."
Once Frye yanked the gun away, the victim said, he ransacked her bedroom, scooped up her jewelry and raped her repeatedly. Then he hog-tied her, she said, and fled. She untied herself and quickly called 911.
Frye is standing trial this week for three counts of sexual battery with a deadly weapon and five other charges resulting from the Tampa attack in August 2009.
When the victim came to court, she left her wheelchair at the doorway and marched to the witness stand. She never wavered when she spoke.
Her account bore similarities to a rape Frye committed in 1985. He was 25 and out of prison for less than a month when he forced his way into a home at gunpoint and tied up a woman, her husband and son. He kidnapped, raped and robbed the woman.
He was sentenced to 40 years in prison but got out in 19.
Frye had been free only 27 days when the 75-year-old widow was raped.
His attorneys contend it's a case of mistaken identity in a bedroom illuminated by only a night light. The defendant was clean shaven at the time of his arrest. Today he wears a full beard and long hair.
The victim admitted Frye looks nothing like he did three years ago.
"Nothing but those eyes," she said.
He also left his DNA behind, according to an analyst for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, who said his biological profile matched that of the attacker.
Frye made a confession as soon as he was arrested. In a taped interview, he told Tampa detectives that her neighbors tipped him off that she lived alone and had liquor and pain pills from recent dental work.
He said he was a paranoid schizophrenic who had been on medication for 20 years. On that day, he said, he'd mixed Percodan with alcohol.
"But I know what I did," he said. "I take responsibility."
Frye told detectives he wanted to be cooperative.
"I know I'm not getting out. I'm just making your job easier."
By day's end, the state had rested its case. The trial before Hillsborough Circuit Judge Chet Tharpe is expected to conclude today.