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She was sucker-punched outside MacDinton's. Why did the case stall?

Amanda Comparetto, 23, of Sarasota, said she was punched in the face after leaving MacDinton's, a bar in downtown St. Petersburg, on Jan. 21. No arrest has been made in the case, prompting Comparetto to write a Facebook post about the incident Saturday that has been shared more than 15,000 times. [Photo courtesy of Amanda Comparetto]
Amanda Comparetto, 23, of Sarasota, said she was punched in the face after leaving MacDinton's, a bar in downtown St. Petersburg, on Jan. 21. No arrest has been made in the case, prompting Comparetto to write a Facebook post about the incident Saturday that has been shared more than 15,000 times. [Photo courtesy of Amanda Comparetto]
Published Mar. 27, 2018

ST. PETERSBURG — It reads like a bar patron's nightmare:

A group of young women go out downtown to celebrate a wedding. A stranger grabs one of them while they wait for an Uber. Another woman wakes up on the ground, her face bloody and scarred.

And two months later, police still don't know who did it.

Amanda Comparetto told the story of her Jan. 21 assault outside a popular downtown bar in a Facebook post Saturday that has been shared more than 18,000 times.

The incident raises questions about the safety of downtown's popular entertainment district. And Comparetto is frustrated that no arrest has been made. She blames MacDinton's for failing to provide security outside — and then failing to help police find the person responsible.

The bar's owners, though, said they've done all they can to help, and police agree. Meanwhile, detectives are still looking for the suspect.

The story started when Comparetto, 23, and a group of women from Sarasota visited St. Petersburg for a bachelorette party. The itinerary included dinner and bar hopping before spending the night at a hotel in St. Pete Beach.

After dinner, the group ascended to the Canopy, a high-end rooftop bar on Beach Drive NE. Their last stop was MacDinton's, the First Avenue N mainstay, where they stayed until it closed at 3 a.m.

Comparetto, a veterinary technician, said she stopped drinking about 1 a.m. The bar closed, the group left and called for an Uber.

A man approached the women as they stood outside Sushi Inc. at 270 First Ave. N, according to a police report. He grabbed one of the women from behind, hooking his arms behind her elbows.

"This is my wife, I'm taking her with me," Comparetto said the man told them as he grabbed her friend and tried to carry her away. The man was "definitely very wasted," she said.

Comparetto told him to leave them alone. That's when he punched her in the head, police said.

"He coldcocked her," said her father, Mario Comparetto. "She never touched him."

Witnesses told police the man walked west on First Avenue N. When Amanda Comparetto came to, she was lying on the street.

"I woke up on the ground in my friend's lap just covered in my own blood," she told the Tampa Bay Times.

An ambulance took her to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, where she underwent a CT scan. She said she suffered a concussion and required three stitches to close the cut on her face. She estimated her medical bills are already between $3,000 and $5,000, and still coming in.

The next morning, one of Comparetto's friends found a video on her phone from inside MacDinton's. A portion of it captured the back of a man in a red shirt — the same man, Comparetto said, who punched her.

It was their only clue, but the video never showed his face. The officer who took Comparetto's report wrote that no exterior security cameras captured the incident.

A detective working the case said he spoke to a bar manager, who told him there was nothing on the business' security footage that could help, said St. Petersburg police spokeswoman Yolanda Fernandez.

The detective asked for copies of the video footage, Fernandez said, but the manager said she didn't know how to make them. The manager also stopped returning the detective's calls. Later, police learned the manager had left MacDinton's during the investigation. By the time higher-ups at the company got involved, they said the security video no longer existed.

The detective told the Comparetto family not to publicize the incident on social media or reach out to news outlets.

"Let us do our jobs," Mario Comparetto said they were told.

But after two months, the family became frustrated and took to Facebook. The father also hired a private investigator and has offered a $1,000 reward to anyone who provides information leading to an arrest.

Amanda Comparetto said she has been unhappy with the way MacDinton's has handled the incident, but police defended the bar. "We have a pretty good history of working together," Fernandez said.

MacDinton's co-owner Marcus Winters said the bar provides ample security on the sidewalk and takes seriously the safety of patrons when they leave at closing time.

"Once the bar closes, we take all our security .?.?. and they stay on the street up to an hour after the bar is closed to make sure everybody is safe," he said.

Winters said the bar has cooperated with the police the best it can.

"I know it's frustrating, we haven't been able to find the person," he said. "Unfortunately, people drink alcohol and these things happen."

The scar still sits under Amanda Comparetto's left eye. Her other scars are less visible. That's why she had her dog, Cosmo, certified as an emotional support animal: "I can live with my (scar), but it's really hard to live with the emotions I'm going through with the nightmares."

Contact Josh Solomon at (813) 909-4613 or jsolomon@tampabay.com. Follow @ByJoshSolomon.