Knock on door in middle of the night results in New Smyrna Beach-area woman being raped

Accused rapist Willie Henderson Jr. of New Smyrna BeachWillie Henderson Jr., 48, of New Smyrna Beach, remains jailed on this Sunday evening on charges of sexual battery with a deadly weapon/force, aggravated battery, false imprisonment and burglary with assault or battery, all felonies, that could net him a sentence of 40 years or more if convicted at trial in what Sheriff's deputies said was a violent attack on a woman in her home in the middle of the night.

NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- A woman was awakened in the middle of the night, -- 3:30 a.m. to be precise, by a knock at the door and a face she knew: A man she had paid 20 bucks to mow her lawn.

Opening the door resulted in a life-changing experience for this 42-year-old woman that nobody would want to suffer through: The fight of her life for her life; reapeatedly beaten and raped in and out of consciousness in the most intimate and tranquile settings for any person -- on her own bed.

After a daylong investigation Friday following that ordeal, Volusia County Sheriff's investigators arrested 48-year-old Willie Henderson Jr. of New Smyrna Beach on four major felonies that could result in a prison sentence of 40 years or more if convicted at trial: sexual battery with a deadly weapon/force, a separate count of aggravated battery, false imprisonment and burglary with assault or battery.

Henderson is being held without bail at the Volusia County Branch Jail In Daytona Beach, a place he has been to repeatedly over the last decade on various felony charges.

"He didn’t know her well, but that didn’t stop Willie Henderson, Jr. from knocking on a woman’s door at 3:30 in the morning," Sheriff's spokesman Gary Davidson said. "When the woman opened the door, Henderson pounced, punching and beating the victim, dragging her into her bedroom and sexually assaulting her."

The victim’s ordeal started early Friday morning, when she was awakened in her home just west of New Smyrna Beach by a pounding on her door. When she opened the door, the woman recognized Henderson from the neighborhood. While she didn’t know his last name, she recognized him as "Willie," the man to whom she had paid $20 to mow her lawn just a couple of days earlier.

Sheriff's investigators told Davidson that acquaintance was all Henderson needed to try and get the victim to open the door and not call the cops.

"He immediately punched the woman in the face, then pushed his way into her home, where he continued to punch and beat the victim," Davidson said,  "and continued in the bedroom -- the victim would later tell deputies that she felt like she was in a fight for her life. The woman said she fought back as hard as she could, but was simply overpowered by her attacker. At one point, Henderson climbed on top of the woman while the two were on her bed and started strangling her. The victim went in and out of consciousness and sustained cuts, bruises and swelling on her face and lips, a black eye and had finger marks on her neck. She also bled from her injuries onto her bed and door.

But that wasn’t the worst of it, Davidson said. When the victim regained consciousness, she discovered that her clothes had been removed and she had been sexually assaulted. Henderson finally left after the victim convinced him that she wouldn’t call the police. After hiding in a closet to be sure that her attacker was gone, the victim grabbed a phone and dialed 9-1-1.

Deputies began arriving at the scene at 4:34 a.m. to start their investigation. The house was in disarray and showed obvious signs that there had been a struggle, including blood, broken glass and furniture pushed aside. Deputies also recovered a cell phone that Henderson dropped during the scuffle.

Meanwhile, Sheriff’s investigators were called in to piece together the crime scene while other units searched for Henderson . At 10 a.m., they found him at his house on Hickory Street.

During questioning, Henderson initially attempted to minimize his actions, Davidson said, but he "eventually confessed that he attacked the victim and became enraged when she fought back. That’s when he started strangling and hitting her and then forced himself on her sexually."

When investigators located Henderson, he had his victim’s blood all over his shirt and pants. And that’s not all: He also had three pictures of her that he stole on his way out of her house, Davidson said.

The victim was treated for her injuries at Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach. This isn’t the first time that Henderson has been accused of violence against a woman. About a year ago, a female acquaintance accused Henderson of throwing her down on a walking trail, strangling her and attempting to sexually assault the woman before stealing her van. The Sheriff’s Office filed criminal charges against Henderson , but the charges were later dropped.

In Friday’s arrest affidavit, Sheriff’s investigators wrote: “Willie Henderson is considered a danger to the public and society and is most likely to re-offend.” Henderson was booked into the Branch Jail at 5:39 p.m., where he remained after his first apperance over the weekend.

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Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet newspaper serving the Daytona Beach-New Smyrna Beach / Sanford-Orlando metropolitan region via HeadlineSurfer.com, launched in 2008, as Florida's first around-the-clock online newspaper. Frederick is among Florida's most experienced reporters specializing in breaking news & investigative reporting and winner of multiple state, regional & national journalism awards in Florida, New York, Massachusetts & Connecticut. The first of his three books, "Creepy Ass Cracker" (842 pages, Xlibris), hits bookstores this Fall. 
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