“Mommy, help me. I’ve been raped.” Before I close my eyes to sleep, I hear those words again and the battle to hold back my tears begins.
Saturday, June 30, 2007 was a perfect day for mother/daughter bonding. My daughter, Jessica, and I have always had a close relationship, and this beautiful Florida morning was the beginning to a day of pampering and shopping. She picked me up promptly at ten, her little sports car with its top down looking more inviting than a stretch limousine. Off we drove to Starbucks to start our gabfest over hot cups of caramel macchiato – our favorite — before rushing off to our manicure and pedicure appointments.
Once we were sure that the dreaded polish smudges could be avoided, we slipped into our sandals and drove to the mall. With nothing special in mind, we searched the shops for the perfect outfit for work or play.
In the dressing room at Victoria’s Secret, we tried on our selections and laughed over their sometimes unflattering effects. Our giggles were so loud, the sales staff knocked to inquire about our insanity.
By mid-afternoon, our stomachs were growling so to lunch we went. This was not the day to be weight conscience. Burgers and fries, and, of course, diet soda! How we enjoyed each bite! After a quick walk through the remaining stores, we called it a day, having made plans to meet again later for dinner and a movie with her dad.
At 11:30 pm, my husband and I left our daughter at her front door as many not well-stifled yawns distorted our faces. At 5:30 a.m., my cell phone rang. Nothing could have prepared me for the sound of my daughter’s voice crying, “Mommy, help me. I’ve been raped.”
My heart stopped beating. I was instantly awake. “Are you badly hurt? Have you called the police?” I motioned for Mike to get dressed. “Stay on the line. Don’t hang up.” Jessica was sobbing, “Be careful, mommy. He has a machete!”
Mike and I lived very near Jess’s apartment. As painful as her phone call had been, the sight of her literally made my heart break. “Dear God,” I thought, “She looks like the Elephant Man.”
Jess was crouching behind her apartment door, shaking uncontrollably, as we let ourselves in. In the darkened room, it was difficult, at first, to see her. With pretend calmness, her dad, a retired doctor, led her to the sofa and examined her face. I dialed 911 and explained what had happened.
There are no words to express the gratitude we all feel toward the North Palm Beach Police Department officers and paramedics who arrived so quickly. No kinder, gentler, more professional men than these will ever be found. Our daughter, as you will learn in this story, is alive because she kept calm and followed her instincts. She provided the police with so much information that formal identification was never an issue.
At approximately 2:30 a.m., Jessica was awakened by the sound of keys in the door. Within seconds, a dark man was standing beside her bed, a machete in his hand. Jess bolted upright but was thrown back, face down, her hands zip tied behind her back. Although she pretended not to know who her assailant was, she immediately recognized him as the maintenance man who had repaired her air conditioner some weeks earlier.
Telling this part of the story always fills me with rage. When Jess rented her apartment just five months prior, her dad asked the manager if he could install an extra inside lock. “Absolutely not,” he was told. Like the law-abiding people we are, we obeyed. Do not, I beg you, do not allow some random person to govern how you protect yourself.
At the time her air conditioner was being repaired, Jess told us that this man made her uncomfortable. He had done nothing overt; they had not even had a conversation, but something in his demeanor set off an alarm. Jess noticed a Blue Tooth in his ear as he worked, and when it rang, it played the same rap tune over and over again.
When her attacker entered, Jessica was wearing a tee shirt and a pair of underwear. He took shorts from her dresser and put them on her. He shoved a pillowcase in her mouth and dragged her, barefoot, to her car, claiming he needed money. For some reason, he chose to drive and, as he pushed Jess into the passenger seat, she noticed one zip tie had become loose. As soon as her attacker was behind the steering wheel, she spit out the pillowcase and bolted from the car; running, screaming across the parking lot. Nobody came to her aid, although many heard her screams.
Bobby Broomfield, III, the perpetrator, tackled our daughter into some bushes and dragged her behind one of the maintenance sheds. She fought hard but her attacker was 6’3” and weighed over 250 pounds. He laughed at her efforts and taunted her by saying, “You must have taken self-defense. It won’t do you any good.”
During the struggle, his gloved hands pulled and punched at her face, tearing her lips and mouth. Eventually, he subdued her and re-zip tied her hands. This time he made them so tight that they cut into her wrists causing permanent nerve damage. Rather than try driving Jess’ car again, Broomfield used his own car. On the front console, Jess saw a Blue Tooth similar to the one the repairman had been wearing. Later, when Broomfield’s cell phone rang, it played the same rap tune. Jess also noticed what appeared to be a dry cleaning bag on the floor. That bag would later cause as much fear as the machete on the seat between them.
Jess thought they would now go to the bank. Broomfield had other ideas. He took her to a vacant apartment near the Intracoastal Waterway. As he pulled her out of the seat, he grabbed the plastic bag and asked if she could swim. Now, Jess feared he would throw her into the ocean with the bag over her head. Being a strong swimmer and a dive master, Jess began to plan her escape. What she didn’t expect was to be brought inside the vacant apartment and raped. Later, she was able to describe to the police the construction lights set up in what she thought was the living room. When the apartment was located, during the investigation, her underwear and the plastic bag were still in the room.
Once through with her, Broomfield dressed Jessica and again put her into his car. He began to drive aimlessly, sometimes going back to the apartment complex parking lot and then leaving again. He noticed the damage to Jess’ face at about the same time she began to lose feeling in her arms. Her crying upset her attacker. He panicked. From the trunk of his car, he took a wire cutter and tried to snip the zip ties. When that did not work, he tried the blade of a saw, which also did not work, but which cut into her wrists, leaving blood on her hands and the car seat. As a last resort, he drove to a gas station, where he bought scissors, telling Jessica not to run or he would shoot her.
More driving… this time stopping at random banks, attempting to get money from the ATMs with her bank card. When the card did not work, he accused her of giving him the wrong pin number. No matter how many times she explained that her account was only with Bank of America, he kept going to other institutions. After exhaustive pleading, Jess finally convinced him to drive to a BOA and, there, he was able to get some money from her account.
Eventually, they returned to the complex and her apartment. Once inside, Jess, thinking ahead, offered him a bottle of beer. During the night Broomfield had talked about himself and his family. He told Jess that his favorite beer was Sam Adams, the same kind she had in the refrigerator. On the pretext of being thirsty, she asked if she could get a drink of water and offered him a bottle, hoping his DNA would be left behind. He refused, pushed her back into the bedroom and raped her twice more.
During the night, Broomfield often banged his head on the steering wheel, stating he had to kill Jessica because she knew who he was. Jessica was adamant that she had not looked at him. Eventually, she convinced him that his identity was safe. Over the three plus hours they were together, Broomfield grew comfortable talking to Jessica. He told her many details about his life. He programmed her cell number into his phone and showed her pictures of his children. One minute he was convinced he had to kill her and the next he promised to return the money he had stolen. He asked what her plans were for the rest of her day and, when she said she was going to the beach, he asked to join her.
The teeter tooter of life and death was torture for Jessica. “Please, God, if he is going to kill me, let it be fast.” Jess was silently begging for mercy.
When Broomfield had finally abused Jessica enough, he insisted she take a shower. Sitting on the toilet lid, machete in hand, he made sure she washed thoroughly. At a loss for what to do next, he again said he needed to kill her. Jess talked about his children and how much they needed him. “Who,” she asked, “will care for them if you kill me and go to jail for life.” Broomfield said he would go to jail anyway because she would call the police. Again, Jess assured him she only wanted the night to be over. For whatever reason, he asked, “So, we good?” “Yes,” she assured him, “we are good.” And he was gone.
The investigation and the trial took two years to complete — two years during which emotional scabs would form and be picked away over and over again.
The hours that followed were almost as horrific as the ordeal itself — the verbal reliving of the event to the police officers, the retelling again to the detective assigned to the case and the ministrations of doctors, nurses and victim’s advocates…all there for your benefit but none the less invading your privacy.
The female detective assigned to the case has our undying gratitude. Detective Stephanie Joyce is an amazing. From the moment she arrived at the hospital, she protected Jessica from everyone not directly involved in her care.
The victim’s advocates were and are an incredible group of women. The first one to the hospital brought clean clothes, a toothbrush and other necessities to make Jessica comfortable. She remained until relieved by her successor, who stayed with Jessica through the traumatic face-to-face identification of her attacker.
The police officers first on the scene took the case very personally. As Jessica was certain she knew her attacker, they promised they would have him behind bars before the night was over. They kept their word.
Our criminal justice system moves at a tedious and frustrating pace. Motions and more motions were filed; postponement after postponement became the norm. Plea deals were offered and rejected, which pleased Jessica. She never wanted to allow Broomfield to get away easily. As difficult as a trial would be, Jess was willing to endure it. She wanted other women to know that there is no shame in being raped. “Come forward,” she wanted to yell. “Stand proud. Hold your head up!” That is exactly what she did.
The trial lasted two weeks. The outstanding case presented by Barbara Burns, the Assistant State Attorney, the evidence collected by the crime scene unit and the testimony of the police officers and detectives were beyond reproach. Combined with Broomfield’s own condemning statement, the state’s case was more than strong. However, no matter how confident we were, the outcome depended on six strangers who sat and listened, showing no emotion, during the long hours court was in session. Three men and three women - different in every way….what were they thinking?
The final morning of trial was tense for everyone. When both sides rested their case, the judge released the jury for deliberation. We wandered the streets around the courthouse…walking and waiting.
In less than two hours, the jury reached a verdict. Broomfield was convicted of three counts of armed sexual battery, one count of burglary while armed, one count of false imprisonment, one count of robbery and one count of trespass. We felt no sense of victory.
The prosecutor assured us that conviction on just one of the armed sexual battery charges carried a mandatory life sentence. We left the courthouse relieved that Jessica would be safe from this predator forever. By the time of sentencing, ninety days later, the mandatory sentence was no longer in effect. Now, we were dependent upon the judge to determine a fair punishment.
At the sentencing hearing, family and friends from both sides made statements, which the judge listened to politely, but I am sure Judge Smith had already reached a decision. Regardless, Jessica and I were determined to plead our case. Jessica wrote the following letter, which she read in court.
Dear Judge Smith:
What I would like to do in this letter is tell you about the changes in my life since the attack. For as long as I can remember, July has always been one of my favorite months. The fourth was not just a day to celebrate our country’s birthday; it was the day our family gathered to celebrate our love and kinship. Red, white and blue signified patriotism and loyalty not blood and bruises. Now, July is the month I celebrate being alive.
At 29, I should have my own home, but I am terrified that, no matter how many locks are on the door, someone will break in. I have become a child again, living with my parents. Dreading the nightmares, I barely sleep. Therapy helps for a few hours, but when darkness sets in, I once again fear for my life. I want to stop shaking! I want not to be afraid every time a dog barks or a tree branch hits the window!
Relationships are so difficult because I’ve lost the ability to trust. I want a family. My parents would like grandchildren. Neither is going to happen when everyone I meet is found lacking. I fear never finding anyone who will understand that my tough exterior is a façade set up to protect me. I don’t like who I have become but am unable to change.
Only those closest to me know that the smile on my face each day is part of my makeup. Apply lipstick. Smile. It’s hard work to pretend to be happy but people really don’t want to be burdened with my sorrow. As a result, I’ve never really grieved for the loss of innocence, security, trust and independence. Grieving is weak. I’m afraid to be weak.
Judge Smith, I don’t want to be vindictive, but I do want justice. There will never be a day I do not remember what happened. I will always see the machete pressed up against my cheek. I will always feel the zip ties pulled tight around my wrists. I will always taste my blood in my mouth. I will eventually require surgery for my injuries….more scars to deal with. I will be a prisoner of these events for the rest of my life. Mr. Broomfield should be a prisoner for just as long.
Please sentence Bobby Broomfield, III to the maximum allowable under the law. I beg you to send a message to other predators that abuses such as these will not be tolerated in our society.
Then, it was my turn. “When Jessica was attacked, my son asked me how God could allow one of his angels to be hurt so badly. Jessica is an angel, our angel, and Mr. Broomfield’s assault took a part of her soul. He stole her freedom. He stole her trust. Her physical injuries will eventually require surgery. There is no surgery to repair the damage to her emotional state.
To the court, this case is a sexual assault but to our family it is a homicide. Mr. Broomfield effectively used the machete he carried to take away a part of Jessica’s life. She is no longer the daughter we knew and I doubt that time will give her back to us. Mr. Broomfield should have to pay for that loss with the rest of his life. He should not be allowed to victimize other women.
Perhaps, Judge Smith really did listen. She sentenced Broomfield to life in prison without parole. I wish I could say that justice being served worked a miracle and all the pain and suffering of the past two years went away. That didn’t happen, but the healing process has begun.
Jessica’s story is filled with women of strong character. Starting with Jessica, herself, they include Lieutenant Stephanie Joyce of the North Palm Beach Police Department; Liisa Spinello and Deliah Roman, the victim’s advocates who befriended and supported her; Randee Speciale, the therapist who saw her through the darkest days; Barbara Burns, the awe-inspiring Assistant State’s Attorney and the amazing Judge Amy Smith. At her side always were her good friends, Mary Bain and Carin Muley. With these women to look up to, how can we not stand tall and proud.
On her wrist, over the deepest scar left by the zip ties, Jessica has a teal blue ribbon tattoo. If you ask her why, she’ll tell you, “If I have to remember what happened for the rest of my life, I want to remember that I survived.”
About Donna Carbone:
Donna M. Carbone is a freelance writer living in Palm Beach County, Florida. She is presently working on two fictionalized books based on true stories and has a number of screenplays under consideration by backers in Hollywood. Since her daughter's kidnapping and rape in 2007, Donna has been an outspoken voice for women's rights.
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