Church volunteer kidnapped, beaten unconscious by man hiding in vehicle

69-year-old taken to Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala


OCALA, Fla. – A 69-year-old woman was beaten unconscious and robbed by a masked man who attacked her after hiding in the backseat of her sport utility vehicle, according to Ocala police.

[PHOTOS:  Woman posts volunteering pictures on Facebook | AUDIO:  911 call]

Tara Barnes was injured in the attack, which happened late Monday night in the Four Corners area near Highway 40 and Highway 314A.

Barnes is a volunteer with First Love Church in Ocala, and had just finished providing meals to the homeless in when she got into her SUV to leave.

Barnes said as she drove off, a man in the backseat put a knife to her throat and told her to drive, according to police.  Barnes told police that the man, who only whispered, was wearing a mask, leather gloves and long sleeves. She guessed he was about 5 feet 9 inches tall and said he had a strong body odor, police said.

Ocala police said the man told Barnes to stop driving near the Four Corners area and dragged her out of the SUV after tying a rope around her neck.

They got out of the vehicle, and the man began beating Barnes with a blackjack, which is a flexible, leather-wrapped club, police said.  As he was attacking her, he said, "You rich (expletive) think we need your help," according to police.

The man then dragged Barnes back into her SUV and told her to give him all her money, police said. She handed over $40, and he ordered her, at knifepoint, to drive back to Ocala, police said.

The man then placed his hand over her mouth, and she tried to bite him, said police, who added that the Barnes' dentures came out and he threw them out of the vehicle.

Police said the man told her to pull over in the parking lot of the Kmart at 3711 East Silver Springs Boulevard and he beat her again with the blackjack. Barnes' glasses were broken in the attack, and the man stole all the items from her wallet and her watch, police said.

Barnes said she was then beaten unconscious and when she awakened, the man was gone, according to police.

Barnes drove back to her original location just before midnight, and law enforcement officials were contacted.

A search of the areas failed to locate the assailant.

Police said Barnes' face, arms and stomach were bruised. She was taken to Munroe Regional Medical Center for treatment.

Barnes' daughter, Samantha Harris, told Local 6 that her mom is back home, resting and is planning to go to the doctor Wednesday. She said her mom is strong but still distraught emotionally and physically, with bruises all over her body.

Barnes didn't get a good look at her attacker, but she said she does remember everything that happened.

The incident has left members of the congregation at First Church in Ocala stunned.

"I was horrified that someone would hurt that sweet little lady," said Martha Cieplinski, who volunteered with the homeless with Barnes.

"She spends all of her money on (feeding the homeless). Sometimes she spends her food money rather than eating in her own home to feed the people," she said.

Harris said her mother doesn't want the homeless to be blamed because they aren't sure it was a homeless person.

Anyone with information about the attack is urged to call Ocala police.

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