Sarah Rucker had feared for her life for months.
In February, the 42-year-old Deltona, Fla., woman had the state file domestic battery charges against her estranged husband.
Dwayne White was going to kill her the next time he saw her, she told investigators back in February, showing them her neck, red and swollen from White allegedly trying to strangle her.
"I'm as good as dead," Rucker had told sheriff's investigators at the time, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.
It wasn't the first time deputies had been called to Rucker's Deltona home for domestic abuse incidents, Volusia County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer Gary Davidson told msnbc.com.
After pressing felony charges over the February incident, Rucker resumed her life as a surgical technician and a mother of four.
On Monday morning, she was discovered stabbed to death in a restaurant parking lot, and her actions before her death have left officials mystified.
'How long have I been talking to you?'
Hours before authorities discovered her body, Rucker had called 911 from her work cell phone. The call disconnected twice; in one instance, dispatchers heard Rucker screaming in the background but the call hung up before she could say anything, Davidson told msnbc.com. When dispatchers called back, they got her voicemail.
"At that point, we have no idea where she is or who is calling us," Davidson said of the brief 911 calls from Rucker's cell phone, which couldn't be tracked to a specific location.
Rucker then called again from her home phone, and told the dispatcher White had showed up at her house, shoved her to the ground, and tried to hit her with a Heineken bottle. White had fled by the time she placed the call.
"He just came, knocked me down, threw the beer on me, and took my phone because I called the police," Rucker told the dispatcher. "He's not supposed to be here. He just got out of jail for doing this to me."
Rucker was on-call for work that night.
"I need my phone. You just don't understand. I work at the hospital," Rucker said.
At one point during her 911 call, Rucker interrupted. "How long have I been talking to you? I could be dead," she said, according to WKMG in Orlando.
Help was on the way
What Rucker didn't know at that point was officials had already traced her address and had sent a deputy to her neighborhood. The deputy was blocks away, searching for signs of White or his car.
"The first priority is to search for the suspect and his vehicle and make sure he's not still in the neighborhood, lurking about," Davidson told msnbc.com. Rucker was "understandably frustrated" that a deputy wasn't at her house yet, Davidson said, but she wasn't aware that deputies had already sprung into action, and were already on the case.
"I'm going to go find him myself," an exasperated Rucker then said on the 911 call, according to WFTV.com.
"No, no. You don't need to go after him," the dispatcher responded.
Volusia deputies then arrived at her home and wrote up a report.
"Then they searched for the suspect and his vehicle, and continued to look for him until the victim later turned up dead," Davidson said.
That was four hours later, around 5:30 a.m. Monday, at a Miami Subs parking lot in Longwood, Fla. Rucker had stab wounds to her neck and face.
"There were many of them, so it was a very violent death with a sharp-edged weapon like a knife," Seminole sheriff's Lt. James Clark told Daytona's News-Journal.
Officials are baffled as to how Rucker got to Longwood, which is in Seminole, the next county over. Seminole deputies — who had no reason to be aware of Rucker's 911 calls with Volusia County — found Rucker's body, clad in pajamas, after a suspicious-person call came in from Longwood.
"I can't speak to why she left her house and met up with the husband," Davidson said. "Why did she leave her house? Did she knowingly put herself in harm's way? I think these are questions that need to be asked."
Investigators believe Rucker was in Seminole County and ran into White there, according to the News-Journal. Clark said White likely then took her to the sub shop parking lot and carried out the homicide there. They don't know what Rucker's reasons for going to Seminole County were.
After Rucker's body was found, Seminole County deputies started their investigation.
"Initially, we were trying to develop information on a possible suspect," Kim Cannaday, Seminole County public information specialist, told msnbc.com. "Then we were made aware of the incident that occurred in Volusia County just hours before the homicide occurred. That's when White became our primary suspect."
White was later found at a girlfriend's house. Investigators charged him with first-degree murder and jailed him at Volusia County Branch Jail with no option for bail. He is being held in Volusia on domestic battery charges, but will also be charged with murder in Seminole County, Cannaday told msnbc.com.
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