What now?

Do you have to do what he says?  What are your options?  Is any course of action reliable under such horrendous circumstances, such unfavorable odds?

Here are the true stories of three unarmed females who faced armed criminals.  Let’s look at what each of them did, and how it turned out for them…

Woman #1:  Name Unknown

Maybe her name was printed in the newspaper story I read some years ago, but unfortunately it was before I started clipping and filing such things, so there is no way to find her name now.  The story made quite an impression on me, because at that time I’d never heard anything like it.

This woman had parked her car in a parking garage in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  When she returned to her vehicle, she was accosted by a man with a gun, and handcuffs!  He handcuffed her, and put her in the front passenger seat of her own car, and prepared to drive her away.

What would you do?  (If you said, “I’d fight back before he got the handcuffs on!”, good for you!)

This woman decided not to go along with her attacker’s agenda, and did the only thing she could do at that point – she started screaming!!  Apparently she screamed so loudly that her attacker was totally thrown off his game plan.  He jumped out of the car and ran away!

He was using the gun to frighten her and to secure her cooperation with her own abduction.  He didn’t want to shoot her (at least not right there and then).  Even though he had a gun and she was handcuffed, she was not helpless!!

Woman #2: Carol DaRonch

Do you remember Ted Bundy?  He’s one of America’s most famous, and prolific, serial killers.  He killed at least 30 women (possibly as many as 100), savagely raping and mutilating them.

Whatever your image is of a serial rapist and murderer, Bundy doesn’t fit it.  He was a college graduate (the University of Washington), and a law student; he had worked for political campaigns, and volunteered at a women’s crisis center.  To most people who knew him, he seemed perfectly normal.  But his crimes were appalling in their quantity, and in their savagery.  He got away with multiple murders for years, because he was intelligent, charming, and very, very clever.

One of the ways he would abduct women was to wear a fake cast on his arm or leg, and to ask his target to assist him getting packages into his car.  Few women would think twice about helping such a nice looking, well dressed, well spoken, “handicapped” man.  But once Bundy had a target alone near his car, he would make some pretext to get her into the car, and then he would lock her in, and off would come the cast, and out would come handcuffs and Bundy’s psychopathic, murderous side.

Carol DaRonch was just 18 years old at the time.  She was in a mall bookstore one Friday evening when a rather handsome man walked over to her.  He explained that he was a security guard with the mall, and asked if she’d parked near Sears; she said yes.  He asked for her license number; young and trusting, she gave it to him..  He said he had seen someone trying to break into her car.  Would she go with him to see if anything had been stolen?  Unsuspicious, Carol agreed.

They went to her car.  Carol checked it, and said nothing was missing.  The “security guard” was not satisfied, and said he wanted to take her to police headquarters so she could file a complaint.  She agreed to go with him.

When he led her to a Volkswagen bug instead of a police car, she became suspicious, and asked him for some identification.  He flashed a (phony) badge, told her his name was Officer Roseland, and hustled her into the car.  Once in the car, Carol thought she smelled alcohol on his breath, and her suspicions increased.  When he told her to put on her seatbelt, she did not do it, but instead got ready to jump out of the car.  It was too late, he had already driven off.

Carol’s suspicions turned to fear when she realized that he was driving away from the police station, not toward it!

The “officer” then stopped the car, grabbed Carol, and tried to put handcuffs on her.  Frightened, Carol screamed and struggled!  The handcuffs slipped onto one wrist, but that was all.

The man then pulled out a handgun, and threatened to kill her if she did not keep quiet!  Carol continued to struggle, and managed to jump out of the car.  Bundy (because that, of course, is who the “officer” was) leapt out of the car with a crowbar and tried to hit her on the head.

Fearing for her life, but not willing to give in, this brave young woman kept scratching and fighting!  The adrenaline rush she experienced gave her the power to kick him mightily in the groin, and then she ran into the road, where a passing couple picked her up and took the upset but very much alive young woman to the police.

Carol saved her own life, despite the handcuffs, despite the gun.  And she was key in helping to end Ted Bundy’s freedom.  Her description of him and his car, plus the fact that her scratches had left his blood on her coat, provided the first really solid leads the police had in catching this madman.  Once he was caught, Carol picked him out of a lineup, and eventually he was convicted of aggravated kidnapping in her case, and was sentenced to 1 to 15 years in prison.

For highly accurate information about Ted Bundy’s life and crimes, including his two (!) famous escapes from police custody, I recommend Ann Rule’s book, “The Stranger Beside Me.”  Rule had worked with Bundy as volunteers in a rape crisis center and wrote a page-turner of a book about him.

Several other women survived Ted Bundy’s attacks, but they were horribly injured in the process.  Carol DaRonch was the only woman to actually escape from Ted before becoming a victim of crimes much more horrendous than kidnapping.

He had a gun, but she had guts.

He was using the gun to frighten her and to secure her cooperation with her own abduction.  One of the most soulless, inhumane psychopaths ever to leave a trail of bloody, dismembered corpses around the country, Ted Bundy didn’t want to shoot her (at least not right there and then).  Even though he had a gun and she was partly handcuffed, she was not helpless!!

Woman #3: Rebecca Savarese

Most people wouldn’t call Rebecca Savarese a woman.  She was a girl, only 12 years old  when she left her Pittsfield, Massachusetts home early on January 7, 1994, to walk to school alone.

A man got out of a truck, came up to Rebecca, and showed her a pistol, which he stuck in her side!  He put his non-gun hand on her backpack, and pushed her toward the truck.  They walked this way for a short distance, and he told her to climb into his truck.

Rebecca faked a stumble, slipped out of her backpack, and bolted like a deer!  The would-be abductor was left holding the bag, literally.

If you have ever shot at a moving target with a handgun, you know how hard it is.  Now imagine trying to make that shot one-handed, while holding a heavy backpack in your other hand, and while your target is bobbing and weaving and speeding away from you.

The man did not fire his gun, nor did he run after Rebecca.  He jumped in his truck. and took off, but not before a neighbor noticed the incident and got his license number.  With that information, and Rebecca’s description, the police were able to capture him before the day was over.

He was Lewis Lent, a pedophile and serial child murderer who was suspected of abducting and killing several children, including a 12 year old boy from Pittsfield, and 12 year old Sara Anne Wood, of Frankfort, NY.  He has been investigated but not charged in connection with a number of other child murders and disappearances in many states, dating all the way back to 1973.

I saw Rebecca interviewed on TV shortly after this incident, and she was extremely sensible about what had happened to her.  This poised young woman said confidently, “I wasn’t afraid of the gun.  I was afraid of getting into the truck.”  She certainly had her priorities right!

Lent was eventually convicted of multiple crimes involving the attempt on Rebecca: larceny, assault with a dangerous weapon, battery, and kidnapping.  But not murder.  Rebecca was alive and well to identify him and to testify against him at the trial.

Lent was using the gun to frighten Rebecca and to secure her cooperation with her own abduction.  He didn’t want to shoot her (at least not right there and then).  Even though he had a gun and she was very young, she was not helpless!!

What should you do?

I’m not advocating resistance in every situation where someone has a gun and you do not.  You must evaluate every situation for yourself, and act accordingly.

Ask yourself, “Is he really going to shoot me, or is he just using the gun to frighten me, and to gain my cooperation in this abduction?”  If the answer is the latter, resist with all your might, right here and now!!

If you do  decide that you will be killed if you don’t do what he says, then you must do whatever it takes to stay alive.  This will be the defining moment of your life.  Don’t let anyone tell you later that you did the wrong thing.  They weren’t there.  They didn’t see what you saw, hear what you heard, feel what you felt, intuit what you intuited about the situation.  NO amount of retelling can give them the complete picture that you had at the moment you made your decision.

Agonizing before hand about what to do in particular situations is an interesting, and often instructive exercise.  But if you are ever involved in an incident like those reported here, you are very likely to find yourself making a split second decision, or even acting without being conscious of making a decision to act, without hesitation, because you KNOW what you should do and you just do it.

Keep in mind that just because someone has a gun does NOT mean that they are willing to shoot you then and there.  These three women survived because they did NOT do what the man with the gun wanted them to do; they thought fast and fought back hard.

This article first appeared in the Jan-Feb 2000 issue of Women&Guns magazine.  Copyright 2000 Lyn Bates