East Tennessee robbery victim beats up suspect with baseball bat

Joe Sotella (Source: Kingsport Police Department)

KINGSPORT, TN (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 victim’s arm and tried to pull her outside.

When that didn’t work, the suspect pushed the victim back inside and yelled, “This is a robbery!” During a struggle, the victim was able to partially pull off the suspect’s mask and recognized him as Sotello, a longtime family friend. She also noticed what looked like a handgun in Sotello’s waistband.

That’s when the victim grabbed a baseball bat from behind the door and fought back against Sotello in what police call “clearly justifiable self-defense.”

Two 18-year-old women were also in the house at the time and joined in to help defend the victim. Together, the three women forced Sotello out of the house and onto the front lawn. 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 at the home of one of the victim’s relatives where another fight broke out. That relative was able to hold Sotello until police arrived.

Sotello initially declined medical treatment but was later taken to a hospital for medical clearance before being booked into 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.

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