SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — The trial for former Sarasota County Sheriff's Deputy Frank Bybee has begun. He faces 18 felony charges including attempted murder, kidnapping and exploitation of the elderly.
Prosecutor Karen Fraivillig says Bybee befriended 79-year-old Marcia Sohl in October 2016 when he had to Baker Act her.
Over the next few months, prosecutors say Bybee took advantage of Sohl, accessing her bank accounts and retrieving money from her account numerous times to buy items like gas.
Sohl, now 80, was in a wheelchair when brought to testify on Wednesday.
"He was taking over my life. When I asked him to stop doing something he'd do it anyhow," Sohl recalled.
Prosecutors say he even accessed her email and used her identity to send threatening messages to her neighbor.
"He was always into something. He took my car without my knowledge when I was in the hospital," said Sohl.
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Prosecutors say after Sohl called the sheriff's office to complain, Bybee borrowed a friend's truck, claiming he needed it for a stalking case.
Sohl recalls Bybee came into her house dressed in all black.
"Everything black. Leather jacket, black pants, black shirt, black hat," Sohl recalled.
He then attempted to smother her.
"I tried to get away from him. He put his hands on my face," Sohl demonstrated.
Bybee also tried to force her to take pills, she said.
"Every time he would try to put something in my mouth, I would spit it out," Sohl said.
"At some point, he reached over to the couch and grabbed a pillow," she added. "It was a small handmade pillow and it had a button in the center…and that must not have given him enough leverage for him to choke me."
When she awoke, she was bloodied and injured. Sohl also told officials she found her car running in the garage and the garage door was closed.
Jurors saw pictures from that night. They showed clear injuries to her face and neck, and blood on her nightgown.
"She suffers from bipolar disorder, you will hear that she suffers from borderline personality disorder," Defense Attorney Ronald Kurpiers said. "She has isolated herself from every friend, every family member. She has been kicked out of multiple facilities because of her demeanor and her attitude. You will hear that unfortunately and, I'm sorry to say this, she is not a nice lady."
"No good deed goes unpunished," Kurpiers added.
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The defense attorney said after Bybee befriended Sohl, she asked him to do various jobs around the house. And despite his resistance, Sohl insisted on paying him.
Eventually, when Bybee was not able to come over, Kurpiers said Sohl threatened him saying, "If you don't come, I will call the sheriff's office and say you're harassing me."
Kurpiers also says FDLE could not determine whether checks written out to Bybee were written by him or Sohl.
If convicted, Bybee could face life in prison.
The trial is expected to last a couple of weeks.