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Tampa victim describes New Year's Day sexual assault to jury

TAMPA — The young woman trembled, but her voice was calm and clear as she told a jury Wednesday how she was sexually assaulted before dawn on New Year's Day 2010. Her voice broke only when she described how she begged for her life, for her children.

When asked to identify her attacker, her pointed finger was rock steady.

"That man right there."

The 31-year-old single mother of two pointed at Tommy Lee Sailor, 38. He is a twice-convicted rapist who is on trial on charges that he assaulted and threatened to kill the woman after meeting her in a Port Tampa bar. He is charged with attempted murder, sexual battery and armed false imprisonment.

The woman's rescue after a furtive 911 call and Sailor's escape through a window launched a massive police search on foot and in the air.

It dominated Tampa news reports through the holiday weekend.

The woman's account before six jurors in Circuit Judge Chet Tharpe's courtroom echoed the 911 call she made that night. She had dialed 911 while Sailor lay atop her, she said. She didn't know if the call had gone through.

It had. A 911 operator listened in for about 15 minutes — not speaking to protect the caller — as police traced the phone signal to Sailor's house. Jurors will hear the recording today.

Jurors were told they will hear Sailor say, "I'm a serial rapist. I'm a serial killer." And they will hear her beg him to let her go home to her children.

Sailor has never been convicted of murder but was charged with three rapes in 1994 and convicted of two of them.

He was released from prison on probation in 2008 and ordered to wear an ankle monitor. He removed the monitor before going out that night. It was later found that electronic alerts from the monitor to authorities weren't acted upon until after the woman was rescued.

The woman told jurors that they had walked to Sailor's home near the bar Tillie's Place, where they met. It was 3 a.m. She said she'd had seven beers.

She said she thought he intended to give her a ride home. She saw no car at his house and asked to call a cab. They went inside. She said he threw her across his bed, choked her and held a flathead screwdriver to her eye.

She described him as half trying to charm her and half trying to terrorize her.

She said he threatened to kill her, then got up and told her he was "punking," not serious. She said he pulled off her jeans and assaulted her with his fingers, then told her she could put her jeans back on. He choked her and told her he would trade sex "for her life." He then told her he'd use a condom. He threw her cell phone across the room, then retrieved it, enabling her to secretly dial 911.

She said he never took his pants off, or exposed himself.

Tampa police kicked in the front door just as Sailor discovered the phone connection. She ran to police, holding her jeans up with her hands. He fled through a window. He was caught the next day.

Sailor waived his rights to an attorney and gave a statement to Tampa Detective Ruth Cate. Jurors saw a video of the interview.

Sailor said he didn't know the woman's name, couldn't remember what she looked like. He just offered to help her get a cab. He called for one, but the call didn't go through. He said he never touched her.

Jurors saw police photos of the woman's bruised neck, consistent with choking injuries, and heard medical testimony that the woman's genitals were swollen and bruised.

After her 90 minutes of testimony, the woman was still trembling in the hallway outside court. She said she and her mother would watch the entire trial, but she didn't return after a lunch break.

"I did my part," she said. "I didn't shake when I pointed him out."

Tampa victim describes New Year's Day sexual assault to jury 04/06/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 6, 2011 11:45pm]
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