NEW SMYRNA BEACH — It was well over a year and a half ago when a woman living in New Smyrna Beach met a man in her neighborhood named Willie James Henderson, and decided to help him out by hiring him to do some work around her house.
It would turn out to be a tragic decision for the woman, who police say would get beaten, raped and nearly strangled to death by the man she trusted and paid $20 to mow her lawn.
But the consequences were also tough for Henderson, 50. On Friday, he was sentenced to life in prison for sexually battering the victim after forcing his way into her home.
The Office of the State Attorney, Seventh Judicial Circuit of Florida, noted that Henderson had been convicted in October by a Volusia County jury of Sexual Battery Using Force, which is a felony, and Burglary with Battery, a first degree felony punishable by a life sentence.
This was not Henderson’s first brush with the law, or with a prison sentence. He was prosecuted by Assistant State Attorneys Michael Willard and Emmanuela Charles, who presented the jury with evidence that Henderson had committed the sexual battery within three years of being released from prison. That qualified him to be sentenced as a Prison Releasee Reoffender.
Circuit Judge Leah Case sentenced Henderson to life in prison as a Prison Releasee Reoffender.
The incident happened on April 27, 2012. The victim told Volusia County deputies that she knew the assailant as “Willie,” a local man who had recently cut her lawn. The victim said she was awakened that morning by a knock on her door, and when she slightly opened it to see who was there, Henderson pushed it open and punched the woman in the face, then dragged her into the bedroom. He got on top of the woman and beat and strangled her, the police report notes.
The woman told deputies she went in and out of consciousness, but continued to fight Henderson as he sexually assaulted her.
The victim also said Henderson threatened to kill her and yelled out “You’re going to call the cops.” When she pleaded with him that she would not call authorities, he stopped assaulting her and left, the police report noted.
As soon as he left, the woman called 9-1-1. Police later determined that Henderson had stolen some pictures of the victim from her house.
Police also reported that there was blood splattered on the bedroom door.
Detectives were able to track down Henderson, who was still wearing a shirt with blood on it.
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