Victim: Milton Bennett Ellis Jr.
The accused: Josephine Rebecca Smith

Ellis

Milton Bennett Ellis Jr.

White male

Age at time: 69

Weapon: unarmed

Victim photo: Pinellas County Sheriff's Office

 
Smith

Josephine Rebecca Smith

White female

Age at time: 22

Weapon: none

Defendant photo: Pasco County Sheriff's Office, 2011

Case type:
Alleged sexual assault

Location:
Other Private Property

Initiator:
Disputed

Witnesses:
No

Case year:
2011

Location details: On the patio of vacant Hooters restaurant in St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, on Sept. 08, 2011

What happened: Milton Bennett Ellis Jr. said he was sleeping on the patio outside a vacant Hooter's restaurant when he woke to find a woman on top of him screaming that she was a vampire. Ellis, who uses a wheelchair, said he tried to fend the woman off as she bit off chunks of his face and part of his lip. Witnesses who called 911 said they heard a woman screaming and a man shaking her and trying to hush her up. Police arrested Josephine Smith, who was found partly clothed with numerous bruises. Smith, who was intoxicated, said she did not remember what happened. Ellis was 69 at the time, Smith was 22. Smith was charged with aggravated battery on an elderly person.

The outcome: Smith's public defender filed a motion for immunity based on the "stand your ground" statute. The defense alleged that police arrested the wrong suspect and that Ellis had been bitten while sexually assaulting Smith and holding her on the ground. The judge denied the motion. Smith later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of battery and was sentenced to 12 months in jail.

Investigating agency: St. Petersburg Police

Case decision made by: Prosecutor

Trayvon Martin’s death became controversial because circumstances leading up to the shooting cast doubt on who was to blame. The Tampa Bay Times reviewed other “stand your ground” cases for similar circumstances. The Times relied on available information, some of which may not tell the whole story. When the situation was unclear, that was noted.

Yes No Unclear/
disputed

Did the victim initiate the confrontation?

Check

Was the victim armed?

Check

Was the victim committing a crime that led to the confrontation?

Check

Did the defendant pursue the victim?

Check

Could the defendant have retreated to avoid the conflict?

Check

Was the defendant on his or her property?

Check

Did someone witness the attack?

Check

Was there physical evidence?

Check

Source: Pinellas County Circuit Court, Feb. 2, 2012.

Source: Pinellas County Clerk of Court case progress docket, Sept. 8, 2011.

Source: St. Petersburg Police Department, Sept. 8, 2011.

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Case last updated: Aug. 10, 2013