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Cover 04/17/2013

Cash for stolen gold

Do Florida’s pawnbroking laws further victimize victims of crime?

Photo: , License: N/A

Photo: , License: N/A

At 3 in the morning on Feb. 7, George Fencl received an urgent phone call. It was his girlfriend, Shelly Noblett, and she was in trouble.

“She said ‘George, I’m bleeding, I don’t know what happened. There’s glass all over. I think I broke the sliding-glass door,’” he recalls. She told him that her dog, Winston, had started barking and woke her up. Since her bedroom is on the second floor, she sometimes kept the door to the balcony of her Winter Park townhouse open at night. She got up to shut it and quiet the dog.

“I guess I was irritated, so I closed it pretty hard,” Noblett says. “And when I shut it, it just started shattering, and I could hear it shattering in lots of different pieces. The next thing that I remember is getting up off the floor. I didn’t know how I ended up on the floor, but I was bleeding.”

In her confusion, Noblett thought that she’d slammed the door so hard that she’d shattered it, fallen over, hit her head and perhaps broken her arm. Her first impulse was to call Fencl, who lives in Apopka, to come take her to CentraCare for X-rays. He told her to call 911, but she refused – she didn’t yet realize how badly she was injured and wanted to wait for him instead. “He came about 30 minutes later, and I gotta tell you, the look on his face – there was blood everywhere,” she says.

He rushed her to CentraCare on Aloma Avenue, but it was closed, so they then raced to an emergency room, where she was examined, scanned and X-rayed. “I showed them the damage in my head,” she says, “and I guess when they were looking at my head, they found shrapnel – metal – there, and when they got the X-ray back, it confirmed that there was a bullet in my arm. And it was still in my arm, and it had shattered one of my bones and joint. And then the police showed up.”

Apparently, while Noblett had been at home sleeping, someone with a gun was outside her townhouse. Her dog had probably begun barking because he heard them and was alarmed. Noblett and Fencl figure that when she went to shut the glass door, the gunman (or woman) saw movement in that second-floor balcony doorway and fired the shots – 10 of them – that shattered Noblett’s glass door, grazed her head, left holes in her bedroom walls and a bullet in her arm.

At first, the police (who had come in from Casselberry, because Noblett’s townhouse was in their jurisdiction) questioned Noblett and Fencl – how could she not know that she’d been shot? How did she not see the bullet holes in the walls of her bedroom? Did Noblett have any enemies? Would any of her friends or family have done this to her?

Noblett doesn’t seem like the type to make that kind of enemy: She’s a 46-year-old middle school teacher at Odyssey Middle School, and she was named an Orange County Public Schools Teacher of the Year for 2012-2013. Searches in various court clerk databases don’t turn up any sort of criminal background for her. She’s soft-spoken, polite and warm. But during the interrogation in the hospital, when police asked her whether she would be willing to prosecute the person who did this to her if it turned out to be a friend or family member, she hesitated, which she says made the police focus on her even more intently.

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