Some people just won’t be stopped.
Take Sondra Dillon, the 84-year-old grandmother who survived a violent mugging outside the Cumberland Parkway Publix near her home in Vinings.
Two days after the June 6 attack, with bruises still on her face and body, Dillon was back at her job as a concierge at Cobb Galleria Convention Center.
“I knew I was scheduled for a shift, so I came in,” she said. “It’s a happy place, there’s good vibes in there and lots of interesting events that go on there that are just terrific. … I’m going on with my life. I can’t let this guy stop me.”
Dillon said she’s always liked to stay busy. She started work as a teacher in New York, then got into the real estate business after she moved to Cobb County over 40 years ago. Now, in addition to her job at the Galleria, she volunteers at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center.
Dillon’s memory of the attack is not complete. She said she was getting out of her car in the parking lot, where she had plans to meet with friends, when a man pulled up. He got out of his car, ripped the purse off her arm, punched her in the face and kicked her after she fell to the ground.
The next thing she remembers is a paramedic helping her to her feet. Police arrived quickly and reviewed evidence, including the store’s surveillance camera footage.
Dillon had plenty of kind words for everyone involved in the case, from the store security team to the Piedmont Hospital staff who treated her and the officers who investigated the case. She said she was especially thankful to one Cobb County Police detective, Sara Penirelli.
“She was so kind and so lovely. … She walked me to the car when I left, and she says ‘Don’t you worry. We’re going to get him.’ And by golly, that night, he was in custody,” she said.
On June 7, officers arrested 42-year-old Oluwole Sunday Olushola in connection with the robbery. According to the report, he’s being held in Cobb County jail without bond on charges of robbery, battery and multiple charges related to using Dillon’s credit cards.
Dillon said he racked up over $1,000 in charges at various stores before the anti-fraud system kicked in. She said her bank and credit card companies were quick to shut down her old accounts and send her new cards, but dealing with the financial repercussions has still been a headache.
“I have to go through everybody who’s on auto pay, from social security all the way down to a sustaining member of PBS Broadcasting, who I got a note from saying ‘We got rejected from your automatic withdrawal,’” she said with a laugh. “Just stupid little nonsense, annoying things I’ve had to do because of this, but I’m just letting it all out. I’ve been doing a lot of deep breaths.”
Dillon said she’s on heavy doses of antibiotics to fight an infection stemming from her injuries and still has upcoming medical appointments related to the incident. But she said her injuries have faded to the point where she feels more discomfort than pain, and she is grateful she wasn’t more seriously injured.
Speaking to the MDJ from her home Saturday afternoon, Dillon said she was looking forward to another busy day.
“I’m going out to do some shopping, I’m going to use my credit cards and I’m going to meet some friends for dinner tonight, we’re going to go to the Orient Express because Chinese food is good for the soul,” she said with a laugh. “I’m moving on.”
Dillon said it’s been surreal dealing with the attention that has come from the incident. The story has been picked up by outlets as far away as Boston.
On Dillon’s coffee table were several vases containing bouquets sent by friends. She said strangers have stopped her on the street to offer support, and the outpouring of love has really helped her to keep a positive attitude.
She said she called her oldest son, a geologist with several publications in his field, to jokingly brag that her name now returns more Google hits than his does.
“He said ‘Ma, you’re crazy,’” she said, laughing. “But I finally got to one-up one of my children.”
Dillon has photos of her children and grandchildren on prominent display in her condo, and she takes obvious pride in each of their accomplishments. She said she looks forward to the day her bruises have disappeared and she can go back to being a fun-loving mother and grandmother.
“I just want to be known for bringing three great kids into the world and knowing that they’re good citizens, good parents, good children, loving and generous,” she said. “That’s what I want to be known for, not this.”