Saturday, July 31, 2010

When Crime Strikes Home

Joseph Doody, suspect in the robbery of my wife
My wife was robbed yesterday in a brazen daylight attack
by Robert A. Waters

This will be a detailed account of a robbery that happened to my wife a few hours ago. Marilyn and I have been married for almost 38 years. We’ve worked hard all our lives and never had any type of run-in with the law. I’ve published four crime-related books but, except for a house burglary many years ago, have never been an actual crime victim.

Marilyn is originally from Tennessee. She’s known for her sense of humor and friendliness. After we graduated from college, we moved to my home town of Ocala, Florida. Last year, after working for thirty-one years as a teacher in nearby Levy County, she retired. We consider ourselves to be gentle, decent people--what cops call low-risk crime subjects.

On July 30, 2010, however, that changed.

At about 5:00 p.m., we drove to a local Walgreen’s, located at the corner of Silver Springs Boulevard and Northeast 8th Avenue. I needed to pick up a prescription and Marilyn had a couple of items she wanted to buy. I parked in a space about fifteen feet from the plate-glass doors at the entrance of the store. As we entered, I noticed a man standing just outside the door.

I picked up my medicine, then handed Marilyn my brown leather Tommy Hilfiger wallet so she could pay for her items. I told her that I planned to go back out and wait in the car and read. When I walked back outside, I noticed the same man still standing near the front door. I didn't think much about it and got in my car where I had a perfect view of the entrance to the store and the people entering and leaving.

A few minutes later, Marilyn walked out.

Suddenly, the man standing in front of the door rushed toward my wife and grabbed her. I was horrified to watch Marilyn struggling with a stranger. My heart sank--she’d fallen a couple of years earlier and broken both wrists. I knew her hands were not strong, yet she kept fighting with the man. From a distance, it looked as if she was flailing as he attempted to control her.

After the initial shock, I threw open the door of the car and raced toward the scene. My fear was that Marilyn would fall again or that her assailant would knock her down. I prayed that he didn’t have a weapon.

I planned to try to intervene but had only gone a few steps when the assailant raced away. Marilyn began to scream: “He stole my wallet! He stole my wallet! He stole my wallet!” It was the best thing she could have done as it alerted everyone within hearing distance that a crime had occurred.

Two bystanders chased after her attacker. One was a man driving a pickup truck. The second was a woman whom we later learned was an off-duty cop. In the meantime, store employees called 911.

I checked to make sure Marilyn was okay. She was breathing hard and I was stressed from the run across the parking lot, but neither of us was hurt. We walked back into the store and waited. In less than two minutes, the first officer arrived. She was an attractive brunette who had a nurturing manner about her.

As she took the information, she asked the manager to check the store’s video-tape. Other officers arrived and store personnel informed them that the robber had been in the store earlier in the day. They stated that he’d unsuccessfully attempted to get a refund for two pregnancy kits. Two days earlier, the manager had asked him to leave the premises because he was harassing older patrons.

In my missing billfold was $72.00 in cash, my driver’s license, a debit card, a Medicare card, insurance card, and other such items. Marilyn and I described the billfold to the officer. Then the manager informed us that he had found a video-tape that showed the presumed assailant standing around outside. Although at that time we were unable to view a tape of the actual robbery, we did see film showing the suspect in the same area where he attacked Marilyn. We also saw a clear, color video of him attempting to get a refund for the pregnancy kits.

Other Ocala Police Department officers arrived, including a detective. Marilyn and I were beginning to calm down although we were still stunned by the attack. The detective asked if we would be able to wait at the store for a few minutes to see if they could catch the robber--if so, they wanted us to try to identify him.

After another half-hour or so, we were notified that officers had detained a possible suspect about three blocks from the store. We piled into the back seat of the detective’s unmarked car and were driven to the scene. Marilyn and I both identified the suspect as her attacker and he was arrested.

At that point, we were transported back to our car. We stopped at Zaxby’s for a bite to eat and debriefed ourselves. Finally, we went home feeling lucky that Marilyn wasn’t injured.

Shortly after ten o’clock that night, there was a knock on our door. A smiling police officer handed me my wallet. It had my money and driver's license and cards inside. I could hardly believe it.

Marilyn and I were informed that the suspect had allegedly confessed to the robbery and had directed officers to the location where he’d discarded the wallet. He stated that as he fled the scene, he’d pulled out the cash and dropped the billfold beside a nearby house. In addition to the confession, the Walgreen’s manager had finally found a video showing the actual assault.

Joseph Doody was arrested and charged with strong-arm robbery. A check of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office public records revealed that he’d been arrested at least twelve times for offenses such as grand theft auto, dealing in stolen property, domestic battery, drug possession, and other offenses. In one instance, he allegedly stole $672 from his girlfriend and went on a crack cocaine binge.

Here are a few observations about the day’s events. First, the officers from the Ocala Police Department did outstanding work. In my blogs, I’m sometimes critical of law enforcement, but these officers were professional, well-trained, and highly-motivated to find the assailant and my wallet. My wife and I can’t thank them enough.

The staff at Walgreen’s was very supportive. The manager spent a couple of hours viewing the videos and assisting police in their investigation. Other personnel gave us encouragement and attended to our immediate needs.

We are also thankful to the young man and the off-duty police officer who chased after the suspect. They were able to give detectives a direction in which to narrow their search.

I’m proud of the way my wife reacted. She raised the cry that sent civilians and police officers on the trail of the suspect.

Most of all, we’re thankful to be safe and uninjured. We feel fortunate the incident turned out the way it did.

During the episode, my wife’s sense of humor did not entirely vanish. As police officers questioned her, she noticed a dirty spot on the collar of her blouse. She said, “If I’d known I was going to get robbed I’d have dressed a little better.” Everyone had a good laugh and we knew she was okay after that.

Finally, this blog is written entirely from my point of view. The suspect has not been found guilty and will be presumed innocent by the courts until his guilt is proven.


SwampAngel65 said...

I just stumbled upon your blog today and after reading a couple posts, plan on stumbling upon it more often!

So sorry about what happened to your wife, but it's good to know that happy endings do exist. Glad no one was hurt and you got your wallet back.

Living in Miami, I tend to forget that every town has it's bad elements, not just the big cities. Guess it's always been like that and I guess it always will be.

Robert A. Waters said...

Thanks for your comments. We were shook up some after it happened, but we're doing well now. We're just glad neither of us was hurt. Robert

Unknown said...

So glad to hear that you and your wife are okay and the culprit was caught. Your post just shows how quickly someone can be attacked in broad daylight in what would ordinarily seem like a safe place. Reminds us that we always be on the alert, because you just never know.

And good for your wife and her sense of humor!

Unknown said...

Hope they put Mr. "Dog" Doodie away for a long time.

Sheila said...

My mother, who is 78 now, broke both of her wrists also two years ago. We have become so protective of her now for fear of her getting hurt again. When I read your story, I felt a jolt of terror when I envisioned your wife fighting off the attacker. I will now keep my mother even closer.

Chuck Booher said...

I'm so glad your wife wasn't injured! It's just a bonus that you got your wallet back. That was a situation where your gun probably wouldn't have done any good. He ran away before you could intervene and you certainly wouldn't want to shoot when he was grappling with your wife or while he was running away. I've been in that Walgreen's, a lot, over the last 30 years. There are some seedy looking characters hanging around, from time to time. Of course, it's best not to let your guard down, anywhere, because you can't predict where someone may attack you.