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Elderly Women Beaten to Death; Witnesses Catch Attacker

July 7, 1986

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ A man beat two elderly women to death Monday with a lug wrench in a parking lot, then was chased down and subdued near the scene by men who wrestled the bloody tool away from him and tied him up, police said.

Police knew of no motive in the attacks on Cullie Page, 80, and Olga Sass, 79. Their purses were left where the women fell.

The man, identified as Robert W. Downing, 28, of Fort Lauderdale, was caught after an auto chase of about a mile by people who witnessed the attack and others who he threatened with the tool.

Downing was charged with two counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault, said Sgt. Steve Richardson.

The women were walking through a grocery store parking lot at midmorning when a man jumped from his car and began beating them with a lug wrench, Richardson said.

Charles Cribb, owner of a sign company, said he witnessed the attack, at first in stunned silence.

″He made sure they were dead. I guess 10 or 15 seconds went by while he was hitting them. He meant to kill them - as in murder.″

″I couldn’t believe it. It takes a few seconds before you realize something like that just happened in broad daylight,″ said Cribb, who ran toward the scene screaming for help.

After the attack, the man hopped back into an old green Chevrolet, leaving the women’s purses on the ground. Several witnesses followed the car about a mile down the street, and one rammed it several times.

Mike Altice, an employee for a refrigeration company, was at an intersection in a pickup truck when he was rammed by the Chevrolet. The man climbed from his car, holding a lug wrench dripping with blood, Altice said.

″I just killed two old ladies and I’ll kill you 3/8″ Altice quoted the man as yelling.

Altice wrestled the tool away from the man, and he and several other men tied a rope around him securely until police arrived.

Altice didn’t know the man had apparently been involved in a slaying a few minutes earlier.

″I wouldn’t have gone toward him if I’d known,″ he said.

Joe Roche, who helped subdue the man, also hadn’t been involved in the chase but became involved when the Chevrolet driver ran across the road and smashed his van’s windshield with a tire iron.

″He was looking at me right in the eye and then he came around to my door trying to get in. That’s when I climbed over and went out the other door,″ said Roche.

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