Ocala woman describes being kidnapped, beaten with blackjack

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OCALA, Fla. - A 69-year-old Ocala church volunteer who was ambushed and nearly killed by an unknown assailant detailed her kidnapping and brutal beating to WFTV.

A group called Homebound Heroes had just finished providing meals to those in need on Northwest Third Street and North Magnolia Avenue on Monday when the attack happened.

Victim Tara Barnes told Channel 9 the ordeal won't keep her from helping the homeless.

"I was just thinking, 'I will never see my kids again,'" said Barnes. "'I'm dead. I know I'm dead.'"

After everyone got their meal on Monday, Barnes loaded equipment into her car and got in the driver's seat to go home. That's when a man appeared from the back seat, put a knife to the woman's neck and told her to drive.

"He stuck a knife in my neck and told me to turn right or he was going to cut my throat," Barnes said. "And he threw a rope over my head and tied it around my head and he kept jerking it and saying, 'Do you understand me?' He was talking in a whisper, kind of like he was disguising his voice. He told me to keep driving."

The man forced Barnes to drive toward the Ocala National Forest, and he eventually told her to pull over to the side of the road.

Authorities said the man then brandished a blackjack and began to beat her with it. While beating Barnes, police said, the man stated, "You rich (expletive) think we need your help?" 

"He got me out of the car and he had me by the neck with a rope and he started beating me with a blackjack," said Barnes. "He beat me from my ankles all the way up to my shoulders, all over my body."

For the whole two hours, Barnes said, the man terrorized her. 

"He's running the knife up and down my neck and threatening to kill me," she said.

Police said that afterward, the attacker put Barnes back in the car, demanded money and ordered her to drive back to Ocala.

During that time, he put his other hand over Barnes' mouth and she tried to bite him, but police said that resulted in him removing her dentures and throwing them out of the car.

The man then directed Barnes to pull into the parking lot of a Kmart on State Route 40, where he beat Barnes again until she lost consciousness, police said. 

"He hit me with a blackjack several times, and I guess I blacked out," said Barnes. "When I came to, he was gone."

Barnes was able to make her way to a Metro PCS store on Pine Avenue, where police and medical personnel were called.

Barnes suffered bruising to the face, arms and abdomen and was taken by ambulance to a hospital.

Authorities said they're actively investigating the case but have not identified a suspect.

The man is described as a white man, standing about 5 feet 9 inches tall, wearing a dark shirt, gloves and a mask.

Anyone with information on the identity or location of the man is asked to contact the Ocala Police Department at 352-369-7000. Additionally, tips can be sent through Crime Stoppers of Marion County at 352-368-STOP.