HOLIDAY — He had his hands wrapped around her throat, pressing her down on a love seat underneath a painting of the Last Supper. The 93-year-old woman had never seen this man before.
It was Sunday afternoon, and moments earlier she had walked out of her garage with cash in her hand to ask her neighbor if she needed anything from the store. She still drives but goes only three places — Sunday Mass, the supermarket and the gym, where she does the arm and leg weight machines and walks on the treadmill. She grew up hard in Wisconsin; Polish-immigrant parents who believed in discipline and self-sufficiency; mother cleaned houses, father worked in a metal factory. She spent her career as an Army nurse — Japan, Germany then back to the states, in Georgia. She was a tough, no-nonsense nurse. She never married and has no children. One time in Germany, an officer tried to force himself on her and she fought him off.
She told her superior that nurses were not prostitutes. She said she got two years of night duty for speaking up.
She retired to Florida because her parents were here. This house on Mandolin Way is hers — she rakes the lawn and trims the hedges and has everything just so, her books and frozen dinners and a stone angel by the front door.
She saw the man Sunday afternoon as he rounded the corner of her house. He had been in her back yard, authorities say, messing with her gutters.
She didn't have a good feeling about him so she walked back in.
He followed, wordlessly; she didn't know he was there until his hands were on her throat. She's tiny, white hair, glasses, sharp blue eyes. In those seconds, she said, she didn't worry about being raped or murdered.
She just wanted him out of her house.
She pushed and kicked and kneed him in the groin and cursed — something she says she doesn't normally do. She said the language flying from her mouth was like "hell was blowing up in his face."
"You get the g------ hell off my property," shouted the woman, whom the Times is not naming because she is an elderly victim of a crime.
She shoved her fist at him, still clutching her grocery money — $40, which she makes go a long way at the store.
"Take the money and get the hell out," she screamed.
She said he mumbled something about needing the money for his babies — but never apologized as he took it and left.
She didn't cry and stayed alone in her house for some time, talking with God.
She was sore from being shoved. She didn't call 911 because she didn't feel like anyone would believe her, but she told a neighbor who called for her.
Deputies were there that night and a detective visited Wednesday.
She wants the man caught soon.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.