To those friends and loved ones who did not know me prior to 1991, I would like to start this post by saying I am sorry for not sharing my story with you before. For so long I have been unable to bring myself to tell the truth about what was done to me on that most horrific night of my life. It was just too personal and too difficult to relive.
Unless you watched the Oprah Winfrey Show or Dateline or happened to run across a newspaper article, you probably are unaware of what really transpired that night.
It was Monday, October 21, 1991.
I remember it like it was yesterday. The morning reminded me of Winnie the Pooh And the Blustery Day. It was my day off, and I had walked out to the mailbox at the end of my street to drop mail in the outgoing mail slot. The autumn leaves were twirling around as I walked, and the air was fresh. The sun was shining; it seemed to be a perfect fall morning.
My son Anthony was almost 7 years old, and Lance was a little over 2 years old. Anthony was off to school, and Lance was going to be a friend’s house that morning while I went to medical appointments. For a few months I had been suffering from anemia, and that day I had a follow-up blood draw and visit with the family doctor.
I was dressed in jeans and one of my favorite black, cable-knit sweaters. I was wearing my favorite necklace, a beautiful thick silver chain with a cross, and several other very nice silver necklaces I always wore together.
After I had the blood draw, I went to my doctor and was told to continue medication for anemia until the test results were back in a few days. After the doctor’s visit, I stopped at the store for a few groceries to make the boys and I stir-fry for dinner that evening.
When I arrived home, I put away the groceries and went over to the home of my neighbor/friend to pick up Lance.
After putting Lance down for his nap, I checked my answering machine for calls that had come in while I was out. There was a message from my soon-to-be attacker (which is how I will refer to him in this blog): “I really want to talk to you tonight. Call me back at work. I really need you to hear me out and not ignore me. And I love you.”
Immediately, I called my friend Carol, whose husband was my attacker’s best friend.
“Ignore him,” Carol said. “As hard as it may be, just ignore him.”
Carol and I chatted for quite a while. Before we hung up, she said she was going to call my attacker and ask that he come by her house after work.
Lance woke up from his nap, and it was time to meet Anthony outside at the school-bus stop. I placed Lance in his stroller, and we walked to meet Anthony. Outside our front door we had a large, plastic pumpkin-shaped bag that Anthony would fill with leaves he’d gathered each day. Several neighbors had the same pumpkin bags, and Anthony was determined to fill his with fallen leaves and have the largest bag before anyone else.
We went into our apartment and had a snack, and then Anthony, Lance, and I went outside to gather leaves for the pumpkin bag. After an hour or so, I told Anthony it was time to go inside, as he needed to work on his homework and I needed to make dinner.
Anthony was at the kitchen table doing his home work when the phone rang. The caller was one of my tenants, who was delinquent on his rent payment for October. The tenant called to tell me that he would be dropping by my apartment in an hour or so to deliver the rent and the late fee to me.
As soon as I hung up the phone, my friend Carol called and said that my attacker was at her house, sitting in the garage with her husband, and they were drinking. I was pretty surprised, as my attacker usually did not consume alcohol, especially on a night when he had to work the next morning.
Carol told me my attacker had brought a bottle of tequila over to her house and was getting drunk. Carol said my attacker was very upset that I had not called him. Carol then asked, “Do you want to talk with him?”
“No,” I said. “I’m cooking the kids’ dinner and need to get them bathed and to bed.”
Carol tried to convince me to chat with him for just a moment, but I declined and told her I would call him in a few days.
About 20 minutes later, there was a knock at my door. My front door was right behind the stove in my small apartment. Because I was busy making stir-fry and was expecting my tenant, I just opened the door (which had no peep hole).
To my shock, it was my attacker. And he was visibly drunk.
“You need to leave now!” I said firmly.
“No. I have to talk with you. I love you,” he said in very broken English, which made me realize how drunk he was, because as he was fluent in English. (My attacker’s father was from Naples, Italy, and his mother was half Brazilian and half Mexican, but his first language was English.)
“What are you doing here?” I said.
As he stumbled through the door, he said, “You have to talk to me — and now.”
At that point, Anthony and Lance came into the kitchen. They’d heard my attacker’s voice, and they’d always cared very much for him. Now, as always, they were happy to see him.
My attacker hugged them and then said, “I need to speak with your mom. Go play, and I will be with you in a moment.”
I told him, “No, you need to leave. I am cooking for the boys and need to put them to bed.”
Then I suggested that he call me in a couple hours and we would talk on the phone. He refused and got very angry because I was continuing to cook and ignoring him.
Suddenly, my attacker grabbed the butcher knife from the kitchen counter that I had been using to chop the vegetables and chicken. Pointing it at me, he said, “You are going to talk to me now!”
In a calm and low voice, because my kids were in the next room, I said, “Don’t do that. The boys are here, and you will scare them.”
Undeterred, he stepped close to me and put the knife against my face. For some reason, I did not believe he would actually cut me; maybe it because I was used to being abused and not really that scared. I thought this was just another way for him to try to control me, like I’d been controlled by everyone who had ever said they loved or cared for me.
Then, the phone rang. I did not answer it, as I was in a heated situation with my attacker. But my son Anthony did answer the phone.
“Mom,” he called from the other room. “Carol is on the phone. She wants to talk to you. She thinks (my attacker) is on his way to our house.”
I told Anthony, “Tell her he is here and I will call her back.”
I heard Anthony say, “My mom will call you back. Love you too!”
With the knife still pointed at me, my attacker said, “Can we talk?”
Again I said, “Later,” and then ran for the phone to call the police.
As I was dialing 9-1-1, my attacker grabbed the phone from my hand and tried to plunge the knife into me. I caught the knife in mid-air with my right hand. As I would later realize, that move almost completely severed my thumb from my hand.
I screamed to Anthony, “Get out of the apartment and take your brother with you!”
Now, my attacker had me on on the floor and was repeatedly stabbing me on my head, face, arms, legs, chest, and back. As I tried in vain to rise from the floor, I saw Anthony standing near my feet.
“Run! Leave with Lance!” I yelled as my attacker continued to stab me.
But Anthony just stood there screaming, “Mom! Mom! Don’t kill my mom!”
So I kicked Anthony backward, screaming, “Get out of the apartment! Run!”
Instead, Anthony started pulling my feet, trying to get me away from my attacker, while I continued kicking him, trying to get him out of danger, and screaming at him to get his brother and get out of the apartment. At the same time, I was trying to defend myself against my attacker, who continued to repeatedly stab me.
Finally, Anthony ran away, hysterical. And I prayed to God he was leaving the apartment taking his little brother with him.
At that moment, my attacker plunged the knife into my chest.
“God help me!” I screamed.
My attacker stabbed me again in the chest, piercing part of my heart and my lung. (Crazy as it sounds, my underwire bra saved my life, as I later learned from the doctors, by deflecting the knife at an angle so it did not plunge through the middle of my heart.)
Again, I cried out to God, and at that precise instant, the heel of my left foot caught my attacker under his chin and threw him back about 5 feet. To this day, I believe God saved my life in that moment.
My attacker suddenly stopped stabbing me. He had stabbed me 21 times, and 17 of those stab wounds would end up being life-threatening.
My attacker then said, “Do you love me?”
“Yes,” I gasped the lie, thinking that was the only way to possibly save my life.
My attacker picked me up off the floor and carried me outside to my car, a Grand Prix. As he got in the car, started it up, and drove off with me in the passenger seat, slumped over the center console, I was in and out of consciousness. But I do remember him saying,”Why did you make me do this? Why didn’t you just tell me you loved me?” I kept thinking, What is going on with my sons? Where are they? Are they okay?
If my attacker had chosen another of my three cars , I would have died, because the console between the front seats of the Grand Prix proved life-saving. Later, I would find out from doctors that position had saved my life, as the pressure it put my left lung and heart slowed the blood flow from my body. But God had directed him to that car.
As my attacker drove down the streets, I realized he was not going in the direction of any hospital. I thought He is going to drop me in a field or ditch. I believed I was going to die and be thrown out of the car at any moment. I could barely breathe, let alone speak to beg for my life. Silently, I kept praying to God to save me and to protect my sons.
After a while, my attacker pulled up to an apartment complex. I recognized it as the place where one of his friends lived, on 242 Street in South East Portland.
My attacker left me in the car. Within minutes, my attacker and his friend ran out, jumped in the car, and again we took off. Thankfully, I could understand Spanish. My attacker’s friend said, “Take Becki to Portland Adventist Hospital.” My attacker told his friend he’d come to my apartment and found me stabbed by an intruder. His friend asked, “Why didn’t you call 9-1-1?”
The ride to the hospital seemed like an eternity. I was worried about my sons and my life. Finally, we pulled up to the hospital. My attacker opened the passenger side of the car, pulled me out and dropped on the asphalt, and sped away. Several people who were walking into the emergency room started screaming, and the next thing I remember is the ER staff running toward me.
I lay on the asphalt while my clothes were cut off of me. A mask was put over my face, and medical language I did not understand was being spoken. I could barely speak, as blood was gushing out of my mouth. The ER staff was trying to stabilize me, and someone called for Life Flight. Amidst all the madness and struggling to remain conscious, I remember scribbling on a pad the medical staff gave me, asking about my sons.
Portland Adventist saved my life and stabilized me until I could be flown to Emanuel. Deputies from the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Department found my sons under their bed, safe, and secured them with a friend.
I was alive when I reached Emanuel Hospital, although I would later learn that I had “died” twice during that life-saving process. I remember one of those “deaths.”