The neighbor of the woman who testified she was victimized by a former Sarasota, Florida sheriff’s deputy does not appear to be very fond of the victim.
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.
80-year-old Marcia Sohl, the victim, testified earlier that former deputy Frank Bybee grew close to her after she called his department for help. Prosecutors allege Bybee gained access to Sohl’s money, eventually attacked her, and then tried to poison her by running her car and filling her house with carbon monoxide. Bybee faces eighteen charges, including attempted murder, exploiting the elderly, burglary, the fraudulent use of personal identification information, and computer crimes.
Dombro, who was called by Bybee’s defense team, testified that Sohl was loose with money, even going so far as offering to pay off her mortgage and giving her a credit card. Dombro says she never took Sohl up on the mortgage offer and never used the credit card Sohl gave her.
Sohl’s mental health has been called into question several times by authorities.
Dombro also testified Sohl called her early one morning, woke her up, and claimed to have been attacked. Dombro rushed over, looked at her, and said, “Marcia, I think you’re okay,” she testified. 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.”
Dombro testified that the area around the victim’s chair was always messy and that the clutter present there, including pills, was not in her opinion signs of a struggle.
Dombro further didn’t recall smelling fumes or odors in the house and doesn’t recall bruises on the victim’s face, though she did claim Sohl’s car was running in the garage when she arrived.
Sohl had been talking about harming herself and even about committing suicide for twenty years, Dombro testified. When pressed for a number on the threats of suicide, Dombro couldn’t recall how frequently it happened, though she did say it was “several” times.
Dombro claimed the victim referred to Bybee, the defendant and accused attacker, as “the best thing since ice cream.” Dombro testified Sohl was fond of Bybee and never had a problem with him.
Prosecutors pressed Dombro whether she told police, “good luck, boys; she’s nasty” when referring to their investigation of the victim and of the alleged attack. Though Dombro couldn’t remember the exact phrase, she did admit she called Sohl “nasty” and a “piece of work.”
Prosecutors said Dombro was trying to convince the police to not take Sohl seriously.
The neighbor’s testimony raises at least some questions about the state’s case in chief and casts into at least some degree of doubt how Sohl sustained the injuries which state’s photos purport to show.
After the jury went home, the attorneys and the judge listened to a police dashcam recording which captured some of the police discussion the morning of the alleged attack. It will be presumably played tomorrow in court.
Bybee will not testify on his own behalf.
Defense witnesses will continue on Thursday. After closing arguments Friday morning, the jury will receive the case.
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