MARION COUNTY, Fla. - Five months after a Marion County woman fought off a home intruder with a wooden mallet, she spoke exclusively with FOX 35 News about her experience, and what she believes kept her husband from shooting the suspect that night.
Body cam footage, obtained by FOX 35, shows a Marion County sheriff's deputy pulling up to a home on Southwest Rainbow Lakes Boulevard on June 11, 2023. The footage shows a few bewildered people standing around as a bloodied man lies whimpering on the grass.
The man on the ground was later identified as Robin Rivera, 42. Rivera is accused of kicking down Tracie and Taylor Mitchell’s front door. According to the couple, the door and its frame were knocked into their house. The Mitchells reported to deputies that Rivera kept lunging at them, so they fought back.
"My f***ing rib hurts… bad," River can be heard saying in the body cam footage. "I’m going to get you checked out," replied a deputy.
That night, Taylor Mitchell was armed with a shotgun, and Tracie Mitchell grabbed a wooden mallet to fight off their intruder.
"He tried to take the gun," Tracie Mitchell said to the deputy. "So, I hit him with [the mallet]. I grabbed this off the nightstand, I keep it there. I’ve always kept it there. I got him in the head."
Five months later, FOX 35’s Hannah Mackenzie met up with the Mitchells. Tracie showed off the wooden thrift store find that she used that night.
"Every time I dust, I drop it on my toe," Mitchell said with a laugh. "And, I’m yelling at my husband, I’m like, ‘I am so tired of this… what do you have this for? Get rid of this! Throw it out!’ and he’s like, ‘That may come in handy one of these days.’"
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Mitchell is now thankful for the mallet that did in fact come in handy during the terrifying incident involving an alleged house mix-up. Rivera reportedly thought he was at his mother-in-law’s house.
"It was scary; I didn’t sleep for a couple of weeks," said Mitchell. "I would pace the floor… any little sound, I was like, ‘Oh my god, what’s that, what’s that?’"
Scared no more, Mitchell said they now have cameras all over the property, and the shotgun is within arm’s reach. Their trusty wooden mallet is also at the ready.
On the body cam footage, Rivera admitted to drinking alcohol. Throughout the hour-and-a-half-long video, he was seemingly unaware of where he was or what he had allegedly done.
"This guy is a little zonked out of it," a deputy said. "He also got the tar beat out of him with a wooden mallet, hammer thing."
Deputies attempted to speak with Rivera after he was handcuffed.
"Did you kick that door open?" a deputy asked. "No, no! Hell no!" Rivera replied. "Your blood is all over the inside of the house," the deputy tells Rivera. "Huh?" Rivera says. "You scared these people half to death," the deputy continued. "You kicked in the door at the wrong house… you almost got killed."
Albeit bloody and bruised, looking back, the Mitchells are thankful Rivera was able to walk out of their home that night.
"You don’t want to kill somebody," Mitchell said. "Everybody said, ‘Why didn’t you shoot him? Why didn’t you shoot him?’ It’s easier said than done, to take somebody’s life like that – for us, anyway."
The couple was unsure what kept them from pulling the trigger, until a few days later. Mitchell found a gold ring, with Jesus on the cross, under her kitchen table. It must have fallen off during the struggle, she said. "I want to be able to hand that ring to him," Mitchell said.
Mitchell said she wants to see Rivera’s face when he gets it back.
"Maybe that will be a reminder to him that his life was saved that night," Mitchell said. "The good lord was looking down on him."
Rivera is charged with one count of burglary of a dwelling with battery, a felony offense. He has pleaded not guilty, and a trial date has been scheduled for February 26. The Mitchells said they would be there, with the ring in hand.