Victim, 73, faces accused attacker at trial
Mitchel Rivera, 41, charged with robbery, burglary and home invasion
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 41-year-old Jacksonville man accused of robbing and attacking a woman in her home is on trial.
Mitchel Rivera is on trial on charges of home invasion robbery, robbery, burglary, uttering forged bills or check and fraudulent use of credit cards.
Police said he attacked and robbed Marti Williams, then 72, in her Arlington home in April 2014.
She recovered and testified Thursday against Rivera on the first day of hiss trial in Duval County court.
Williams said Rivera (pictured) mowed her lawn, so she knew him. She said about a year and a half ago, he broke into her home, threatened her, demanded money and beat her.
"He said, 'Give me money or I'm going to kill you,'" Williams recalled.
She described on the stand Thursday the morning a man broke into her bedroom and attacked her.
"I woke up and there was a man standing beside my bed," Williams said. "He bent down, and he told me if I didn't give him money he was going to kill me."
Williams, now 73, identified her attacker from a photo lineup. She told detectives Rivera did lawn work for her and others in the neighborhood.
"I am absolutely certain that is the same individual," Williams said.
Williams, who lived alone, said Rivera stole her money and beat her, leaving her with a black eye, welts and bruises. Police said Rivera also stole Williams' identity.
A day after the attack, Williams' home burned down while she was away. Investigators believe it was intentionally set, but so far no one has been charged with the arson.
Flames destroyed the garage and smoke damaged the rest of the building, making the house unlivable for Williams. Williams, who lived alone and does not have close family, lost practically everything she owned.
Jacksonville Sheriff's officers arrested Rivera on April 24, 2014. He's been in jail since. His attorney said he's a hard worker, he likes to help senior citizens and he's maintained his innocence.
Williams has recovered and was in strong spirits Thursday afternoon. She told News4Jax she was ready to face her attacker and that she hoped she would get justice. She said she hopes Rivera is sentenced to life in prison.
After hearing about the attack in April 2014, victim's advocates with the Justice Coalition got involved, giving Williams support.
In the following months, the Justice Coalition joined with Jacksonville Fire and Rescue firefighters, Jacksonville Sheriff's officers and other community groups to rebuild Williams' home. The non-profit organization Builders Care and the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters also got involved. The public donated thousands of dollars to the cause after hearing Williams' story.
In September 2014, volunteers welcomed Williams back into her newly renovated home, which was dubbed "the house that love rebuilt."
Williams said she was thankful for the love and support during a difficult time. She said she was truly blessed.
"Every single deed that was done on my house and for me is so deeply appreciated," Williams told those who'd gathered. "I would have no home standing right now if it hadn't have been for you people here."
Rivera previously served more than a year in state prison after being convicted of burglary.
The six-juror trial, under Judge Waddell Wallace III, is expected to last two days.
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