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Mount Dora marchers protest walker's attack

More than 200 residents marched through this Central Florida town to declare they wouldn't give in to fear after a would-be robber stabbed a marathon speed walker.

They marched for nearly an hour Saturday and held up signs in support of Frances Meli, who was severely wounded Dec. 28 as she walked at dusk, just three blocks from the town's police station.

Meli suffered a cut artery near her heart, and her spleen had to be removed. Her attacker escaped after her frantic screams summoned help.

"We're afraid, but we're not going to stand for this," said Andrea Burr, a friend of Meli who helped organize the march. "Some women have quit walking because of this."

Among the protesters was Sally Mae Moss, 70, who walked with the help of a cane.

"I'm slow, but I'm going to make it," she said. "I got a real bad knee and a cracked hip, but for a cause like this, I'll walk. We have to show the criminals and the dopers we don't want them around."

A $1,500 reward was offered for Meli's attacker, and a petition has been circulated asking that leaders of this city 25 miles northwest of Orlando step up efforts to keep the streets safe.

Meli's parents, Ray and Julia Massey, and her husband, Paul, also participated in the march.

"It's fabulous," Paul Meli said. "I think people realize it could have been any one of them."

He said his wife was recovering at Orlando Regional Medical Center.