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Former Sarasota County Sheriff’s Deputy Frank Bybee is facing a life sentence for attempted murder and 17 other charges, as his trial continues in Florida. Bybee is accused of trying to kill 79-year-old woman Marcia Sohl on January 12 of this year.
Authorities say Bybee first met the woman when she called the Sheriff’s Office for help on October 21, 2016. He took her to a hospital and stayed with her for a bit before leaving, but she claims he didn’t leave her alone after that. According to a police affidavit, Bybee reached out to the woman afterwards and maintained a more “familial” relationship, but in December, she reported Bybee to the Sheriff’s office, saying that he was interfering in her personal life and was trying to control her. Police say he also took her dog, and stole bank checks from her home, depositing tens of thousands of dollars into his own account.
During an investigation, Bybee told authorities that he didn’t intend to keep the dog, and that the money he took was to go towards taking care of it, according to the affidavit. However, police say, Bybee also said he then got rid of the dog, giving it to someone else through Craigslist.
The Sheriff’s office placed Bybee on administrative leave, and days later, he allegedly went to the woman’s home and tried to kill her. She told police that he let himself into her home, and while wearing gloves, forcefully grabbed her face and tried to force medication that she used as a sleep aid down her throat. She said she lost consciousness, and when she woke up, her car was running while parked in the garage, with the door from the kitchen to the garage open, allowing carbon monoxide to spread through her home.
Bybee was arrested on January 23 and fired on January 31. Besides attempted murder, his charges include burglary, theft, exploitation of the elderly, and kidnapping.
On Tuesday, the jury viewed video of Bybee’s interview with police. He claimed that he had nothing to do with checks that were made out to him from Sohl’s account, and he said that Sohl offered him thousands of dollars to take care of her dog, but he didn’t want to take it.
Later in the day, Heike Bybee, Frank’s wife, took the stand, and said she had nothing to do with the situation. She said the night of the alleged attack, she went to bed around 10 or 11pm and Frank wasn’t home, but he was in bed when she woke up around 3 am.
Philomen Pereira, a friend of Sohl’s, also testified, saying that she had helped Sohl from time to time, and had met Bybee at Sohl’s home. She said that Bybee and Sohl appeared friendly, but that Bybee once told her that Sohl ran hot and cold, with varying behavior towards him. Pereira also discussed two emails from Sohl that concerned her. One was from her account sent to Pereira with a message for Bybee that was full of profanity, and another was from Sohl to another friend of hers, saying she was planning on killing herself. The friend had later shown that email to Pereira. Pereira also discussed how she had assisted Sohl when she had been committed to a mental facility.
Despite the close friendship she had with Sohl, and the help she provided, Pereira said she never received gifts from Sohl, except for a $500 Christmas gift. She never received checks for thousands of dollars, like the ones found made out to Bybee.
The state rested their case, and the defense proceeded to call several witnesses on Wednesday including a doctor who testified about Ms. Sohl’s delusions including how the FBI was after her.
Mary Ann Dombro, the neighbor, said the victim was a”nasty” person. She also called the victim a “piece of work.” Both statements came out on cross-examination by Florida prosecutors. Most significantly, she testified that on the morning of the alleged attack, she did not notice the same bruising and injuries that police witnessed.
Police photos taken later suggest Sohl had been bloodied and bruised by an attack which Sohl claims Bybee inflicted upon her. Dombro testified the photos taken by police do not represent the person she saw the morning of the alleged attack. When confronted with the photos which purport to show the attack, she said she thought Sohl “hit her head on the tub,” or perhaps had been “enhanced.”
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