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Published: Monday, 6/6/2005

91-year-old fends off would-be purse thief

BY CLYDE HUGHES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The would-be purse snatcher thought he had an easy mark: a frail-looking elderly woman.

But Saturday afternoon, when the thief approached 91-year-old Katherine Woodworth in a West Toledo parking lot and demanded her purse, he got more than he bargained for.

He got a whuppin' instead.

Angered by the thought of being robbed, Ms. Woodworth, a tiny woman with gray hair and glasses, who normally wears a hearing aid, turned her purse into a weapon and repeatedly struck the man until he fled.

"He just made me mad," Ms. Woodworth said. "I wasn't really thinking, I just hit him."

Ms. Woodworth said yesterday she didn't feel like she did anything special in fending off her attacker in the Kmart parking lot on West Alexis Road.

She said she arrived at the store about 3:45 p.m. to pick up some items when a man walked up to her and announced he was taking her purse.

"I didn't have my hearing aid in and I thought he said that he was going to take my pulse," Ms. Woodworth said with laugh.

"Then he said it again that he was going to take my purse and I said, 'No, you're not.' "

The would-be purse-snatcher ran away but by that time another woman in the parking lot noticed the struggle and took a description of the suspect's vehicle and a license plate number.

"Apparently, he picked on the wrong feisty 91-year-old woman," Sgt. Tim Hanus said.

"I'm kind of surprised and amused. She let him have it just hard enough to scare him off."

Police said the suspect is Matthew C. Spradlin, 20, of Walbridge. He remained in the Lucas County jail last night.

Mr. Spradlin was arrested shortly afterward at the Kroger Food and Pharmacy, 833 West Alexis Rd., where store employees accused him of taking a purse from a shopping cart inside the store before customers and employees ran him down.

He has been charged with robbery, felony theft, assault, aggravated menacing, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Kmart store manager Tim Bigelow said he was off Saturday and didn't know much about the incident, but said he was impressed with Ms. Woodworth's determination.

"We don't need any of that stuff [purse snatching] here," Mr. Bigelow said. "I don't think she was really supposed to do that, but I'm glad they caught the guy."

Sergeant Hanus does not recommend that elderly women start taking up arms against youthful purse snatchers.

He said the best policy is to play it safe and get a good description.

"Your health and safety is more important than any possession that you have," Sergeant Hanus said.

Ms. Woodworth doesn't consider herself brave.

"I'll be 92 in August and I guess I've got more nerve now than when I was younger," Ms. Woodworth said with smile.

"I felt sorry for him because I don't like to see anyone get in trouble, but I guess he had it coming. What a waste of life and time," she said.

Contact Clyde Hughes at: chughes@theblade.com or 419-724-6095.



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