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Arrest made in St. Petersburg in Kissimmee woman's fatal robbery-beating

Margarita Aponte, 78, of Kissimmee with her 3-year-old great-grandaughter, Makala. Aponte died from a beating.

Special to the Times

Margarita Aponte, 78, of Kissimmee with her 3-year-old great-grandaughter, Makala. Aponte died from a beating.

ST. PETERSBURG — In January, a tiny 78-year-old woman in Kissimmee was robbed by a man wielding a crowbar.

Margarita Aponte had just withdrawn $300 from her bank to pay her rent when the robber attacked.

Aponte, a grandmother of 23, was taken to the hospital, where she died from her injuries about a month later.

On Friday, authorities arrested a suspect — hiding out at his own grandmother's house in St. Petersburg.

Michael Shay Williams, 40, was booked into the Pinellas County Jail on Friday on an armed robbery charge. He is awaiting extradition to Osceola County.

"I'm glad we got him off the street. This was a heinous crime," said Stacie Miller, spokesperson for the Kissimmee Police Department. "She was beat with a crowbar and left to die."

Williams was just released from prison in May after he served 17 years of a 40-year sentence he received in 1991 on second-degree murder and robbery charges out of Miami-Dade County. Details of those crimes were not available Friday.

Williams also was charged Friday with violating probation on his previous charge. Authorities say he could be charged with murder in Aponte's death.

Aponte, who stood about 5-feet-2, was attacked on Jan. 14. She died Feb. 27.

After the crime, police quickly arrested 31-year-old India Usher, who they say drove the getaway car.

But Williams could not be found.

After the Kissimmee Police Department and Osceola County Sheriff's Office exhausted local leads, they reached out to the Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force, which expanded the search to known acquaintances across central and west Florida.

About 5:30 a.m. Friday, authorities made their move.

"We hit about nine locations at the same time," said deputy U.S. Marshal Dan Winfield.

Aponte's family member's, many of whom live in the Tampa Bay area, said they were relieved by the arrest. They buried Aponte on Wednesday.

"I just don't understand. She was tiny. Why didn't they just take the pocketbook?" said Luis Perez, her son-in-law, who lives in New Tampa. "I don't understand how people can live that way. It's just really cold."

Formerly of New York City, Aponte moved to Florida about six years ago. For years, she was a seamstress. She also volunteered for programs that catered to at-risk youth.

Wherever she went, the kids around her called her "grandma."

"She just loved it all," Perez said. "She was somebody that everybody lost."

After the attack, Perez said, Aponte never recovered. She spent the last few weeks of her life in and out of consciousness at Kindred Hospital-Tampa.

"She was reliving it over and over again," Perez said. "She would go into depression and just cry and cry."

Arrest made in St. Petersburg in Kissimmee woman's fatal robbery-beating 03/07/09 [Last modified: Monday, March 9, 2009 10:12am]
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