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Zephyrhills woman, then 68, recounts kidnapping and rape

DADE CITY — The 68-year-old woman had been grabbed from her home in the middle of the night, punched in the face and thrown into a van by two young men who wanted to get money using her ATM card.

"I blew the horn hoping someone would hear it," she said. "I got punched in the ribs for that."

And then, in the back seat of the van, she was raped. Then the men threw her into a dark, water-filled quarry, pushed her van in after her and left her for dead.

The woman recounted her horrific March 2007 attack on the witness stand Tuesday in the rape trial of Bobby Lee Black III, one of two men accused in the case. Black, now 21, was convicted of raping a 66-year-old Zephyrhills woman that occurred a couple of weeks before this attack.

His alleged accomplice in both assaults, Jathniel McMichael, 20, is awaiting trial in both cases.

The prosecution on Tuesday said DNA evidence ties Black to the rape of the 68-year-old woman: The odds are 1 in 710 billion that she was raped by an African-American other than Black.

The victim, whom the Times is not naming because of the nature of the attack, appeared in court Tuesday. The small, gray-haired woman in a pink sweater told jurors that her evening began like any other: She took her dog for a walk around midnight then settled in for an episode of Frasier.

There was a knock at the back door of her Zephyrhills mobile home. The woman peered out her Venetian blinds.

"I saw someone leaning up against the trailer outside the door," she said. "All I could see was his leg and part of his shoulder."

She didn't open the door and returned to the living room. It was quiet for about 10 minutes, she said, until a brick came through her window.

"It sounded like a bomb went off," she said.

Two men wearing masks entered her living room and wrestled the phone away from her as she tried to dial 911. They demanded money, and one punched her in the face, she said.

Not satisfied with the money they found in her purse, they grabbed her bank card, put her in her van and drove to her bank.

She was in the passenger seat. The driver announced that he wanted to rape her, the woman said. He switched seats with the man sitting behind her.

"He pulled me over the seat like a rag doll," she said.

On the bench seat at the rear of the van, he raped her, she said. The pain from her injuries lasted for two weeks, she told the jury.

The two men took her to a bank, withdrew her money from the ATM.

Jurors on Tuesday saw video from the ATM that night. It showed the victim with two men, their faces covered. One had his arm around her neck. Her face was bruised. Testimony would later reveal her left eye socket was broken.

After the men left the bank the drove the woman to a quarry. On the way, they held a knife to her throat and debated whether to kill her.

At the quarry, she described looking over the edge and seeing nothing but darkness.

She was pushed in.

The van followed.

She climbed back up the edge to the street, where a passing driver stopped and called police.

Later Tuesday, the victim in the first attack testified. Her voice cracked frequently as she fought back tears.

Around 2 a.m. on March 1, 2007, she said she awoke to a man straddling her in bed, demanding money. He put a knife to her throat.

The man made her stand up by her bed, she saw another man by her bureau. The man who had straddled her grabbed her by the arm and led her out of the room.

"On the way to the living room … I was told to take off my nightgown," she said.

They demanded money again, she testified. She told them she only had $3 in her purse and told them to take her debit cards.

Then, she said, they raped her.

When the first man was finished, she said, "He told the other fellow that it was his turn."

A jury convicted Black in that attack last April. Prosecutors were allowed to present that victim's testimony in this case to show an ongoing pattern.

During the testimony of both women, Black's parents sat quietly. At previous hearings they have expressed sympathy for the victims yet insisted their son was innocent.

Black is charged with home invasion, kidnapping, sexual battery, grand theft auto and aggravated battery of a person older than 65. He faces life in prison if convicted in this case.

The jury will hear closing arguments this morning before beginning deliberations.

Helen Anne Travis can be reached at htravis@sptimes.com or (813) 435-7312.

Zephyrhills woman, then 68, recounts kidnapping and rape 01/26/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 26, 2010 9:03pm]
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