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In a quiet courtroom, a widow's show of strength

No one expected her to be in that courtroom Thursday morning, facing the man accused of murdering her husband.

Because Sara Kocab, at 29, had already been through so much — the death of the man she married, their first baby together stillborn only the day before.

It seemed so much more than anyone should have to bear.

Last month and a lifetime ago, her husband, Jeffrey Kocab, and his fellow Tampa police officer, David Curtis, were shot dead on the side of the road, that long since two men left home for a midnight shift that should have been burglary calls and traffic stops, maybe a DUI, the kind of night they would tell their wives about when they came home tired.

Instead, the news came in terrible phone calls before dawn, and after that, the nightmarish days of a suspect on the run before he finally turned himself in.

For Sara Kocab, there was the baby, too, their first, a girl they called Lilly Nicole. "The family had known for some time that Lilly had an abnormality that was not compatible with life," the news story said, an intensely private matter gone public because a city had come to care.

And you kept thinking: This is too much for anyone to bear.

The mayor and the police chief went to see her in the hospital after she delivered the baby Wednesday. All along, Sara Kocab had said she wanted to be there for the arraignment of Dontae Morris, the day he would hear the charges against him.

But she had been through so much, physically and otherwise. And there would be plenty of other court dates. Too many of them.

The police chief told an officer to go ahead and drive to the hospital Thursday morning just in case, though she figured there was no chance she would come.

But as reporters gathered in the courtroom waiting for Morris, who would come in shackled at the waist with bailiffs nearby, a side door opened and there was Sara Kocab in a wheelchair, her blond hair pulled back in a ponytail, her face set. She would tell the prosecutor she needed to be there.

Mayor Pam Iorio later talked about the quiet determination she had seen in that face.

A police officer pushed the wheelchair to the audience, where everyone waited. She made her way to Kelly Curtis, the widow of slain Officer David Curtis and the mother of four little boys.

Too much.

They had not known each other before this, but their lives are now forever entwined. You think you have seen grace and dignity and loss before, and then two women are side by side, one reaching her hand to the other, both sitting quietly as the prosecutor announced his intention to seek death twice over.

And people talk about getting strength from them. Imagine.

"They continue to amaze me every day," police Chief Jane Castor said.

"They are inspirations to me as a person," the mayor said. "Just remarkable."

With all the images since the day two police officers were killed, now there is this, a woman in a wheelchair with more than anyone should bear, and the determination in her face anyway.

In a quiet courtroom, a widow's show of strength 07/22/10 [Last modified: Thursday, July 22, 2010 8:47pm]

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