Hesitating, I stepped into his car. I didn’t know him but he was persuasive, a good-looking young man in a red hot car and I was limber from a glass of wine with dinner. There was no way to know that an hour later I’d be handcuffed to a tree in Huntington Beach’s Central Park, with him on top of me.
I tearfully pleaded with him to stop. Alarmed by lights shining from the parking lot, he stopped, “shit, we gotta get out of here. That could be cops.” He grabbed me, hoisted me up, said he didn’t have the keys for the handcuffs. He pulled up my shorts, then proceeded to shove down the young sapling tree that my arms were around. Once freed from the tree, he marched me in the dark across the grass, the same grass I had played on as a child. In the parking lot, he unlocked his car, shoved me in. I sat in the passenger seat with my hands cuffed in my lap, dazed, tears streaming down my face. He drove me through HB to an apartment complex in Westminster, parked at the far end of a carport. He leapt out, walked over to a supply closet door. He returned with a tool of some kind, opened my door. I slid down to the ground on my butt. He barked “we have to get those cuffs off you.” I said, “you’re going to kill me.” He snapped, “shut up!” He got the cuffs off, how, I don’t know, I couldn’t look. He went back into the supply room and I staggered up and dashed through the parking lot. He caught up, grabbed me, swung me around to face him, held me tight by the wrists. He said, “don’t leave me. I love you, I want you to marry me.” He was crying. A light went off in my head and I said, “ok, I’ll marry you. I love you, too.” He said, “really? Really? You mean it? You’ll marry me?” still holding my wrists too tight. I said, as convingly as I could, “yes, I mean it. I’ll marry you. But I’m really tired so how about you take me home and I can get a good night’s sleep. Then I can start on wedding arrangements in the morning.” This scene went on for years but finally, he led me back to his car. I stepped in. We talked civilly about wedding plans as he drove. I tried to be upbeat and sweet. I directed him to the street where my boyfriend lived. He pulled over. I gave him a fake telephone number. Said goodbye. Got out, did my best to walk nonchalantly in the wrong direction. I saw him drive off, so I ran back the other way, burst in through the unlocked front door. My boyfriend’s brother was standing in front of the TV. “Hey,” Bill said, he always said. I let myself fall into his bean bag chair. “What’s up?” he asked. I said, “I’ve just been raped.”
Bill called the cops and the man was caught that night. He’d raped before, a number of times. He was sent back to prison but then, a year later, inexplicably, was released. Within that first week free, he sexually assaulted and brutally murdered, savagely beat and mutilated a young woman outside an Orange County nightclub, the whole terrifying act caught via a video surveillance camera. He remains on California’s Death Row.
Yesterday morning I had an epiphany about that night, 24 years ago today. My whole adult life, I’ve never liked having someone drive me, have always insisted on taking the wheel. I can’t believe that it’s taken me decades to connect the obvious dots, to realize that one night long ago, as a vulnerable young woman, I was driven around town by a violent psychopath, wondering if my life was about to be snuffed out.
Every single day, I’m grateful to be alive and free.