The woman involved in the suspected rape case that’s shaken Flagler Beach since it unfolded on the south side of town early Friday morning alleges she was attacked twice by James McDevitt in the space of two blocks, the first time in front of a friend of McDevitt’s who urged him to stop. It was only a pastor’s phone call to 911 that alerted authorities of what the pastor thought was a sexual assault in a yard next to his home just after 3 a.m., interrupting the alleged assailant in the act.
That evidence emerges from a more detailed investigative report by Flagler Beach police detective Liz Williams that also sheds light on the disturbing—and apparently broken—system local police must work under when confronted with a rape case and having to have the victim examined by a qualified nurse: the agency contracted to provide that service, the Daytona Beach-based Children’s Advocacy Center, refused to provide a nurse, according to the report, potentially endangering the viability of the evidence. The victim had to be examined in St. Johns County, hours after the alleged attack, forcing the victim to endure hours of unnecessary additional trauma. The service the advocacy center is paid to provided is publicly funded by the Florida Department of Children and Families.
Williams’s investigative report traces the victim’s evening back to barbecue with friends in Flagler Beach, following which the victim went with friends to Finn’s, the bar on State Road A1A and State Road 100. Finn’s tends to stay open later than most bars in town, so the woman had left the place at 1:30 or 2 a.m. She had decided to return to the friend’s house where the barbecue had been held earlier. But “she wanted some alone time first and decided to walk on the beach,” the report states. The woman told Williams that it wasn’t uncommon for her to do that. She’s lived in Flagler Beach on and off her whole life, and the beach “is a place where she finds comfort and solace when she is troubled.”
The victim was troubled that evening about an ex-boyfriend. Her friend’s house was on South 16th Street. Rather than take the road, she took to the sands. She spoke with her ex-boyfriend on the phone as she walked, became emotional, cried, and finally walked up the steps to the road only to realize that she’d walked up two blocks shy of her friend’s house. She emerged around South 14th Street. She started to walk on South 14th when she saw a minivan on the side of the road. It was parked in the 100 block of 14th, on the south side of the street. Two men were standing outside the van. One of them approached her and asked if she was OK. She kept walking west.
All of a sudden, the victim claims, “one of the males grabbed her and threw her to the ground,” the report states. “She stated that she initially believed she was going to be robbed but the male was being extremely violent to her and placed her face down in the soft sand of the alleyway on the north side of the block between A1A and Central Avenue. She said that he was holding her face down with such force and she was panicked and trying to breathe but only was able to bring dirt into her mouth and nostrils and no air. She stated that at this point she felt the male was going to kill her. She advised that the male had then taken his pants down and put his penis in her mouth and down her throat. She stated that he then tried to kiss her and she bit his face. She advised that she did this because she felt certain he was going to kill her and she wanted to have evidence on him to help the police identify her murderer. She also said that she was able to slip the strap of her purse over her head in case he killed her she would have identification for the police to know who she was.”
During that initial attack, the woman said to the investigator, she heard the other man yelling at the man who was attacking her, telling him “no,” “stop,” and “she can’t breathe.” The investigation would reveal that the second man was Sebastian Guitierrez, who told police that the van was parked on the side of the road as he and McDevitt were tending to a friend, Darius White, who was passed out drunk. Guitierrez recalled the woman walking by and both he and McDevitt approaching her to ask if she was OK. Guitierrez told the detective that McDevitt “then told him to go away and check on” White. Guitierrez did as he was told, “but then he heard the female scream and went to check and see what was happening,” the report states, “and he saw her lying on the ground.” Guitierrez assumed the woman had fallen. McDevitt was “hovering” over her. Guitierrez assumed McDevitt was helping her up.
The detective asked Guitierrez if he’d noticed a bite mark on McDevitt’s face at that point. He did. Williams then again inquired of Guitierrez that “if he heard her scream, saw her on the ground and saw a bite mark on [McDevitt]’s face, how he came to the assumption she was being helped.” Guitierrez said he didn’t know. When asked if he’d asked McDevitt to “stop” and told him “no,” Guitierrez said he had, “but that it was only because he thought he should stop trying to ‘help’ the girl and that they should call for someone else to come and help her because she was saying she had seizures and needed help.” Guitierrez said McDevitt then told him to go away and tend to White, which Guitierrez did. The last he saw of McDevitt and the victim was of them walking down the street.
By the time she was able to get up and walk again, the victim told the investigator, she couldn’t tell where the second man—Guitierrez—had gone. She started walking north on South Central and told McDevitt that she was going o her sister’s house. She picked out a door at random, knocked, hoping the homeowner would come to the door and provide help. Nobody did. She kept walking north, and when she attempted to run off to another house, she said “he grabbed her and began to drag her into a vacant lot.” That’s where what would turn out to be the second alleged attack took place. That alleged attack was related in the first police report, completed by an officer-trainee who was riding along with a Flagler Beach police officer that night.
In the lot, the victim says McDevitt ripped her panties off and had his hand around her throat “and was squeezing, and she believes she may have lost consciousness again.”
Pastor Robert Tier, who lives on South Central, could not sleep that night. He went outside to walk his dog. He heard a woman scream, and saw a man put his hand “over the woman’s mouth,” the report states, and “pulling her towards the vacant lot across the street. The pastor went to his house to fetch his cell phone, come back out immediately and call police. By then, the pastor told the detective, he could see the man on top of the woman in the vacant lot motioning back and forth in the ways of a sexual act as the woman yelled “no” repeatedly.
Three squad cars passed by, the pastor recalled. The man didn’t stop until the three cars turned around, came back, and put their spotlights on him. At that point the pastor saw the man get up and try to run away.
The victim also recalls cars going by as her alleged assailant was penetrating her, and that “he rolled her on top of her and told her ‘to go with it’ or he would ‘kill her,’” the investigator’s report states. The victim “stated that when the cars turned out to be police cars and the headlights hit them he got up and ran away.”
McDevitt did not get far. He remains at the Flagler County jail, charged with rape, on $101,000 bond.
For the victim, the ordeal was not over. It would be several hours before she would be examined by a nurse trained in rape crises, after Williams struggled in vain through numerous attempts to get the Children’s Advocacy Center to respond to the case in Flagler Beach. Williams, who has 16 years’ experience and an ample rolodex, was able to circumvent the center’s refusal to provide a nurse by calling on previous resources she had worked with, in St. Johns County, and having the examination conducted there. For most of those hours, the victim had to refrain from cleaning up to much as the dirt in her mouth and nose, to preserve evidence.
The advocacy center’s handling of the request left Flagler Beach police livid.