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Mugged at home, but not helpless

When the 82-year-old woman was attacked, she was prepared.

By ASJYLYN LODER, Times Staff Writer
Published August 20, 2007

Shirley M. Ives recalls how she nicked Dion P. Sookoo with a ice pick after he forced his way into her Harshaw home in St Petersburg and beat her repeatedly. Ives was released from the hospital on Thursday, but her bruises , like the one on her face, are still healing.
[Martha Rial | Times]
Dion P. Sookoo, arrested by St. Petersburg police, charged with robbing and battering Shirley M. Ives.
[Special to the Times]

ST. PETERSBURG - For 36 years, Shirley Ives felt secure in her home. So when her husband died nearly 20 years ago, she stayed by herself.

"I never felt afraid," said Ives, 82. That's why, on the evening of Aug. 7, she opened her door to a stranger, and a brutal attack.

A self-described "tough old bird," Ives is experiencing some fame for fighting back. Bruised and blindfolded, she nevertheless stabbed her attacker with an ice pick.

Sitting in an armchair in her sunny living room, Ives shared some fragments of her long life. Mother of two, and stepmom to a third, Ives has buried one son, a grandchild and a husband. She's survived two types of cancer and 17 operations.

"You never know what life is going to throw at you," she said. "You just have to weather each storm as it comes."

The Norfolk, Va., native tells her story:

My parents were born on the Outer Banks in North Carolina. I always thought of them as true natives... I met my husband, and we married in 1946. Or 1945? It was 1945 ... His family called him Lawrence, but I called him Larry and it stuck ... Before we got married, I said, 'I want you to know I want to move to Florida.' He said, 'Don't go without me.' So we packed up the car and went through Elizabeth City and we just kept on coming ... I fell in love with all the colorful houses and tropical plants, and thought it was just beautiful ... We looked at this and when we walked in the door, he looked at me and I looked at him, and before we saw the rest of the house, we knew. This was going to be our home ... We got along like a house on fire ... I still miss him.

Used to be, they left the windows open and the doors unlocked because "anybody who came through your door was a friend."

After her husband died in 1988, she slowly grew more cautious. She kept her doors locked, and kept a small, wood-handled ice pick handy.

The sun hadn't set on Aug. 7 when she heard a knock at the door. She looked through the peephole, the ice pick in her right hand. "He looked clean. He looked neat. His clothes looked nice. And foolishly I opened the door."

The man shoved her down, covered her eyes with tape, and began kicking and hitting her.

"I don't think he knew I had the ice pick until I was down on the floor. I was just stabbing blindly."

She felt him taking the ice pick, and thought, "Lord, is this how I'm going to come home? And I waited for him to stab me ... While this was going on, I said, 'What would your mother think of what you're doing to an old lady?' "

Her attacker finally fled with her purse. She staggered to the phone and called 911.

St. Petersburg police on Thursday arrested Dion Sookoo, 19. Detectives also arrested Randy Polite, 19, and Martin Kiss, 30, on charges of obstruction of justice after they lied about Sookoo's location.

"He had the nerve to tell the police that he wouldn't have hit me if I hadn't stuck him with the ice pick," Ives said. "I hope I nicked him even a little, so every time he sees the nick, he'll remember how it felt and where he got it from."

Ives said she's slowly recovering. Deep purple bruises mark her arms and legs. Her shoulder is still so sore that she can't put on a bra. The stitches have been taken out of the gash on her head, but it's still too tender for her to get a perm.

She starts at noises, wakes up when the ice maker rattles to life. She certainly won't open the door again to a stranger.

And if someone does break in, Ives warned, "My son bought me a Taser. It's all charged up and ready to go."

Asjylyn Loder can be reached at 813 225-3117 or

[Last modified August 19, 2007, 23:53:44]

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