Robbery victim beats up suspect with baseball bat

Lisa Morelock, left, and Joe Sotella (Kingsport Police Department and WJHL)

KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WATE) – An East Tennessee man was arrested after police say he tried to rob a 52-year-old woman who, in what police say was self defense, beat up the suspect with a baseball bat.

Joe M. Sotello, 34, faces two charges of aggravated burglary.

The Kingsport Police Department says the woman answered a knock at her door on Bond Drive around 9 p.m. Saturday. A woman on the other side of the door was holding a flyer about a lost dog. As soon as the door was open, a masked man stepped in, grabbed the Lisa Morelock’s arm and tried to pull her outside.

When that didn’t work, the suspect pushed her back inside and yelled, “This is a robbery!”

Monday WJHL went to Bond Drive and found Lisa Morelock, who explained that after the suspect pushed his way inside her home, her instinct to fight back kicked in.

“I was scared for a few seconds in there, and then momma bear kicked in on me and, no, not today,” Morelock said.

According to police, Morelock was able to remove part of the man’s mask and recognized him as a long-time family friend identified as 34-year-old Joe Sotello.

She also noticed what looked like a handgun in Sotello’s waistband.

Standing at just 4 feet 11 inches tall Morelock was staring at someone almost one foot taller, and 100 pounds heavier.

Morelock said that wasn’t going to stop her from fighting back.

“I reached over, and grabbed a bat,” she said. “And it’s an aluminum bat.”

According to police, two other teenage witnesses inside the home also stepped in. Together the three females pushed Sotello from the home.

The woman with the “lost dog” flyer, identified as Sotello’s girlfriend, fled in a silver Honda. Sotello tried to get into the car as well, but was unable to get away from the three women defending themselves.

Sotello was eventually able to run off, but officers learned he had turned up a the home of one of the victim’s relatives where another fight broke out. That relative was able to hold Sotello until police arrived.

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Sotello initially declined medical treatment, but was later taken to a hospital for medical clearance before being booked in the Kingsport City Jail. Police say he admitted to the crimes saying he “had been going through some hard times.”

The girlfriend later came to the police station on her own and said she participated out of fear of what Sotello might do to her and had no idea what he had planned. She has not been charged.

Sotello was transferred to the Sullivan County Jail in Blountville where he is being held on $35,000 bond.

Morelock hopes her story will help others to stand up, and fight back.

“Don’t be so afraid, if I can do it, anybody can,” Morelock said.

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