NEW PORT RICHEY — Dorene Paul had a sweet tea in hand and was unlocking her front door when a burglar, waiting within, pulled her inside.
He began pummeling the 60-year-old woman with his fists, smashing teeth out of her mouth and knocking her glasses off her face. He then tied her arms and legs with electrical tape, shouting threats of rape. He showed her his knife.
"I've done this before and let them go," Paul remembers hearing from the attacker, who was angered at her fighting back. "You, I'm going to kill."
The Saturday afternoon attack at Paul's New Port Richey home sparked a weekend manhunt that ended in the arrest of a 17-year-old across county lines. Even with the suspect behind bars, Paul's questions remain: How could a boy decades younger, someone who had skateboarded in her neighborhood and rummaged through her refrigerator, beat her so viciously?
"I thought maybe I could talk my way out of it, you know? He's just a teenager, you know?" Paul said. "He had no remorse."
Steven Andrew Hargis, a past friend of Paul's 17-year-old son, was arrested Sunday in Clearwater on three felony charges of burglary, aggravated assault and false imprisonment. Capt. Jeffrey Harrington with the New Port Richey police said Hargis broke in through a back window and stole cash with hopes he could pay off his drug debt.
But that burglary escalated into a torture session that lasted more than an hour and a half, Paul said. The boy demanded to know where she kept her safe and struggled to get in her locked bedroom, where her Labrador Dixie lay and where the boy said he would sexually assault Paul. When she refused, he beat her more.
Paul said she had been beaten before by an angry ex-husband. Never like this.
"This was the worst beating I've ever had," she said. "When he was hitting me, he got pleasure."
Paul managed to wriggle out of her bindings, which spooked the boy and caused him to run from her home. Paramedics and police arrived at the home to take Paul to the hospital.
Her aches, stretching from her face and jaw to her feet, still throbbed Monday as her son Michael, 28, helped her inquire about a home alarm system. Paul said she doesn't like guns but owns a can of pepper spray, which was in another room during the attack.
"I'm at edge," she said, her voice quavering. "Every little noise upsets me. I cry a lot. I'm lucky I'm alive."
Drew Harwell can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3386.