It was about 1:30 in the afternoon when Nadine Boll, then 87, got a call from her neighbor, Audrey Mulligan, at the Paradise Shores condominium complex.
Mulligan, 78, was supposed to do some grocery shopping for Boll, who is disabled, but she was calling to say she couldn’t.
“She was crying, she could hardly talk,” Boll said. “She said, ‘I won’t be able to get your groceries today.’ She said, ‘I’ve been brutally raped.’
That was March 12, 2007. Mulligan died 30 days later at St. Petersburg General Hospital, and the Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner’s office determined it was because of the rape.
Last week, more than six years later, a judge agreed it was high time for Mulligan’s accused rapist and killer, Virgil Eugene DeBose, to face a jury of his peers and set a trial date of May 21 after an effort to work out a plea failed.
“It is certainly past time to get this thing done,” Circuit Judge Nancy Moate Ley told attorneys in the case.
If convicted of the murder charge, DeBose would be sentenced to life in prison. Initially, prosecutors were interested in the death penalty, but that scenario has been taken off the table, defense attorney Keith Hammond said.
DeBose, 48, has also been charged with raping a 58-year-old mentally disabled woman with one eye less then three miles away, five days before he is said to have raped Mulligan. Prosecutors will wait to see what happens in Mulligan’s case before deciding what to do with the earlier rape, Assistant State Attorney Michael Marr said.
Both attacks happened in west St. Petersburg.
DeBose picked his targets while riding Pinellas SunCoast Transit Authority buses, then followed them to their homes, according to investigators. He was identified after detectives released his photograph, taken from a camera on a PSTA bus.
Once he showed up at the women’s doors, he would ask to use the telephone to get into their apartments, according to police records.
In addition to Mulligan and the 58-year-old victim, DeBose is suspected of raping or trying to rape two elderly women on the east side of the city, though he has not been charged in those cases.
Five days before DeBose is accused of raped the 58-year-old woman, a man matching his description made his way into the unlocked apartment of an 84-year-old woman, picked her up out of her recliner and carried her to her bedroom, where he raped her or tried to, said St. Petersburg police spokesman Bill Proffitt. Police did not pursue the case because the victim did not cooperate with investigators.
The day before Mulligan was raped, a man matching DeBose’s description went to the screen door of a 72-year-old woman and asked to use the telephone, according to police records. She said she didn’t have it with her and shut the door. No charges were filed because no crime was committed.
Before Mulligan was raped, she was watching CSI on television when a man appeared at her back door and asked to use the phone, saying his car had broken down, according to court records. Mulligan thought he was one of the roofers working on a project at Paradise Shores, so she let him in, she later told investigators.
Once inside, he appeared to use her phone, then asked for something to drink. Mulligan gave him a bottle of SunnyD. After he took a sip, Mulligan outstretched her hand to properly introduce herself. DeBose grabbed her by the throat, dragged her to a bedroom and threw her on the floor before assaulting her for roughly two minutes, according to police.
She couldn’t scream as she struggled because he had her by the throat, she told investigators. Once he got off her, he asked her for forgiveness, and she told him, “Go to hell,” according to court records. After he left, Mulligan crawled to a phone to call 911 and then Boll.
Mulligan was admitted to St. Petersburg General Hospital with a pelvic fracture, court records say. Eight days later, she was released to the Pinellas Park Rehabilitation Center, where her blood pressure and temperature dropped, and she developed a urinary tract infection, court records say.
By the time she was readmitted to St. Petersburg General Hospital, her kidneys were failing, and Mulligan, who was a heavy smoker, was suffering from lung disease. She then developed a second infection, her abdomen was distending, and her white blood cell count was elevated.
Surgeons conducted exploratory surgery and discovered her intestinal system was diseased. Mulligan died the day after the exploratory surgery, according to court records.
While the medical examiner’s office concluded Mulligan died as the result of being thrown to the floor and assaulted by DeBose, Hammond, is expected to have testify medical experts who will say she died from infections while at health care facilities.
“It’s the bug that she caught,” Hammond said outside court Friday. “You can catch a bug anywhere.”
Boll, Mulligan’s friend, expects to testify, too.
“Apparently I’m the only one she had any contact with,” said Boll, now 93, who’s lost the use of her hands, legs and arms. “I’ve tried to get out of it. They won’t recuse me.”
“I said, ‘There’s no way I can get there,’ ‘I’m disabled,’” Boll said. “They offered to bring me on a stretcher.”