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Purse snatcher stopped, but then his girlfriend showed up

PORT RICHEY — Dennis Boff was just pulling away from the post office at the Books-A-Million shopping plaza on U.S. 19 when he saw trouble.

A mother and daughter — ages 49 and 71 — were leaving a Chinese restaurant about 1 p.m. last Friday when a young man approached them with a gun. He pointed it at the daughter's head and grabbed for her pocketbook. She clung to it.

"Give me your purse or I'm going to kill you," the man said, according to a report from the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. The woman screamed for help.

"Someone call 911," she yelled.

Boff, 69, started leaning on his horn. The would-be purse snatcher let go and ran. Boff followed.

The man was running toward Olive Garden when another man tackled him to the ground. Boff stopped his car, got out and helped the stranger hold the gunman down.

"I was trying to get his hands behind his back," Boff said.

Then, a woman in a blue Ford car drove up. She was also there to help — the gunman, that is.

She stuck her knee in the stranger's back, while Boff and the would-be thief wrestled over the gun. Boff said he had the man's wrist twisted so the gun pointed toward the criminal's stomach.

"Go ahead and shoot," Boff told him.

Then the woman pulled Boff off the thief. The gunman and his girlfriend got into the car and sped off.

Witnesses got the license plate number. And the woman — identified by authorities as Nikki Butrick, 20 — dropped her cell phone in the parking lot fracas.

Investigating Butrick quickly led detectives to her boyfriend, Robert W. Pardo, 25, who matched the description of the assailant. Both have lengthy criminal histories: Pardo's first arrest was for aggravated battery in Tampa when he was 11. Butrick's first arrest was for battery in Hillsborough County when she was 13.

On Wednesday afternoon, a deputy spotted the car witnesses said was used in the armed robbery. Pardo was driving and led deputies on a high speed chase on State Road 54, cutting in and out of traffic, according to a sheriff's report. After he got to his house on Leonard Road in Lutz, he took off on foot, but was captured by deputies, the report said.

Pardo admitted to the April 10 robbery, but told detectives he did not have a gun, according to his arrest report.

He is charged with robbery with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, reckless driving and resisting arrest. Pardo is being held at the county jail in lieu of $55,300 bail.

Deputies are still looking for Butrick, Sheriff's Office spokesman Kevin Doll said.

Boff wasn't injured in last week's skirmish and, after deputies arrived, he continued on to his engagement — singing songs to people in an assisted living home in Trinity.

He told the people at the nursing home what happened and he liked the attention he got.

"I was sort of blowing my own horn," he confessed.

But when he got home to his wife of 47 years, it was a different story.

"Are you crazy?" she asked him.

She worried he could have been hurt. But Boff said he was glad he could jump in and help.

"It makes me feel good," he said.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at

Purse snatcher stopped, but then his girlfriend showed up 04/16/09 [Last modified: Thursday, April 16, 2009 9:02pm]
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