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Published: Friday, 4/22/2005

Woman, 75, struggles to recover from attack

BY CHRISTINA HALL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Rubie Petterson was found in her apartment. Rubie Petterson was found in her apartment.
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A South Toledo woman who is fighting for her life because of a beating this week missed by minutes a fire that killed a house guest two months ago.

Rubie Petterson, 75, was in "very critical condition" last night in Medical College of Ohio Hospitals after the assault inside her Flory Gardens apartment, authorities said.

In February, she had just left her house, 747 Nebraska Ave., when a fire broke out, killing an elderly man for whom she was caring.

Yesterday, a $5,500 reward was offered for information in the attack on Ms. Petterson at the apartment she moved to after the blaze.

She was found Wednesday afternoon lying unconscious under a couch inside her ransacked apartment at 3425 Nebraska, near Byrne Road. She had severe injuries to her head.

Sgt. Tim Noble said investigators believe the motive for the attack was robbery.

"This was a brutal attack," he said.

Chief Mike Navarre agreed, saying it was a "particularly vicious crime."

Detectives canvassed the apartment complex the last two days talking with residents. Police have learned some details, but declined to discuss the investigation further, the chief said.

Sergeant Noble said Ms. Petterson may have been lying inside her apartment for several hours before she was found by residents and maintenance personnel. The sergeant said the assailant forced entry through a covered hole where an air conditioner would have been installed.

Mayor Jack Ford and Councilman Wilma Brown called Ms. Petterson a friend.

The mayor visited her for about 30 minutes Wednesday night. He said she is well known in the community, was a Savage Park trustee, and was a "fixture" in the Nebraska-City Park Avenue area.

Ms. Brown has known Ms. Petterson for about two decades and said she worked on all of her campaigns since she became an elected official.

"She needs your help. She's helped so many people. There are other seniors in the complex. I don't want to see this happen to them," Ms. Brown said.

She said Ms. Petterson was "just beginning to come back to life again" after the fire Feb. 10. Jack Wilbert died in the blaze that was caused by flammable items too close to an electric space heater. About 20 minutes before the fire was reported, a friend picked up Ms. Petterson and drove her to the hospital for a scheduled appointment.

The city of Toledo and the Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority are offering a $5,000 reward and the African American Police League is giving a $500 reward for information resulting in the prosecution of those responsible for the attack.

Contact Christina Hall at

chall@theblade.com

or 419-724-6007.



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