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Rape victim too ill to testify against accused man

DADE CITY — The woman, now 70, has told her story twice in court: how two masked men kidnapped her from her Zephyrhills home in 2007, took turns raping her, threw her into a dark, water-filled quarry and then pushed her van in after her.

Her testimony this spring helped prosecutors prove that Bobby Lee Black III was the attacker in another similar rape, in which a 66-year-old woman was awoken in the middle of the night at home and assaulted by two masked men.

The two traumatized women, describing their similar nightmares, helped win the conviction.

Next week, prosecutors needed the 70-year-old victim to tell her story again, to help prove Black was one of the men behind the masks in her attack.

But Assistant State Attorney Manny Garcia plans to ask a judge to delay the trial after learning that the woman, who now lives in Ohio, has suffered a series of minor strokes.

Her speech and mobility were affected, he said. Her doctors don't want her to travel. The doctors also said her recent health decline might be related to the stress of having to testify about her horrific night.

"What I don't know is if and when the doctor will let her testify," Garcia said.

So for now, the case is on hold.

Neither victim is being named because of the nature of the attacks.

Black, 21, has yet to be sentenced for the first rape, in which prosecutors presented DNA evidence in the form of semen taken from the victim's body that matched Black's DNA.

There is only one sentence Black can receive: life in prison. That's also the sentence he would face if he is ever tried and convicted in the 70-year-old's rape.

His friend and co-defendant, Jathniel McMichael, still faces trial in both cases.

Black and McMichael were at a party on March 1, 2007, when they decided to go out for a ride. That's when prosecutors say the two crawled through a window into the 66-year-old's home in Winters Mobile Home Park. They rifled through her things, prosecutors say, then dragged her out of bed, held her at knifepoint and each raped her.

The next attack came weeks later at a mobile home park about 2 miles away. Black and McMichael were arrested within days.

McMichael, 20, who also faces life in prison, confessed to both rapes in a recorded interview with sheriff's detectives, authorities say. But his cases are on hold while his attorney works to keep those statements out of his trial.

Prosecutors need both victims to testify against him, too.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

Rape victim too ill to testify against accused man 08/31/09 [Last modified: Monday, August 31, 2009 9:13pm]
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