Marine on leave from Iraq charged in knife attack
DAYTONA BEACH — Janet Tibbetts went to sleep on a friend’s sofa and woke up to a nightmare.
The 43-year-old woman, in town for Bike Week, told police she was roused from slumber Saturday night by a knife-wielding man who said he was a U.S. Marine who had returned from Iraq. He said he was going to cut off her 14-year-old son’s head while she watched, police said.
“I told him he wasn’t taking my son anywhere,” Tibbetts said, “and I got up to confront him.”
A tearful Tibbetts — who is recovering from multiple stab wounds — recalled the ordeal her son and three friends endured this weekend.
“You see this crap on TV and you never think it’s gonna happen to you,” Tibbetts said Monday.
According to a police report, Tibbetts and her son and their friends Debbie Brown, Barry Moore and Sherri Whidden were terrorized by Pfc. James J. Bovadilla, a U.S. Marine on active duty.
Bovadilla, 24, a Los Angeles native stationed in Camp LeJeune, N.C., recently returned from Iraq, a Marine spokesman said. He is a heavy equipment operator with the Marine’s Alpha Company, Transportation Support Battalion.
Lt. Jorge Escatell said Bovadilla is on leave but it is not clear why he was in Daytona Beach.
The recently widowed Tibbetts said she and her son, Bobby, were in town visiting Brown for Bike Week at her Hollywood Avenue apartment. While Brown, Moore and Whidden went out for the evening, Tibbetts and the boy watched TV and then went to sleep.
Bobby Tibbetts heard a noise in the kitchen and awoke to see Bovadilla approaching his sleeping mother with knives hidden behind his back, the police report says.
Tibbetts said she heard her son say, “Mom, do what he tells you.”
Bovadilla announced he was taking Bobby. When Tibbetts jumped up to stop him, the Marine attacked her, stabbing her left side with a kitchen knife and threatening to decapitate the teen, the police report shows.
Tibbetts said Bovadilla kept apologizing for his actions, but also told them he “had to make a statement.”
“He told us the Marines had broken up his family and had done him wrong,” Tibbetts said. “He said he had been in Iraq.”
Bovadilla put down his knife when the terrified woman began to talk about losing her husband in a motorcycle accident six months ago.
“I thought it would help if he could see that I was a person, too,” Tibbetts said.
But the moment of calm was broken when Tibbetts’ three friends returned home to find a stranger in the blood-spattered living room.
Moore began to scuffle with Bovadilla, who stabbed him several times, while Brown hid in a closet and tried unsuccessfully to call police from her cell phone, the police report states.
Brown then screamed at Bobby to get help.
The boy said he bolted through a second-story window, landing on a roof just below and then jumping to the ground. He ran toward patrol cars parked at the end of Main Street.
“I told them: ‘Someone broke into our apartment and they’re trying to kill my mom,’ ” Bobby Tibbetts said
According to the police report, the two officers found Bovadilla in the building’s stairwell.
Bovadilla told them he had become “spooked” as he walked on Hollywood Avenue and had crept into the crawlspace of Brown’s apartment building, the report said. He told them he remembered nothing else.
Bovadilla was being held Monday night at the Volusia County Branch Jail on $100,000 bail, charged with aggravated assault and aggravated burglary.
Moore remained hospitalized Monday at Halifax Medical Center with stab wounds to the face and a punctured eardrum.
Tibbetts was released from the hospital Monday afternoon.
As she sat outside the facility in a wheelchair, she lit a cigarette and said she was grateful to Moore and her son: “We came here for vacation, and we’re lucky to be alive.”
LYDA LONGA firstname.lastname@example.org