No one ever thinks it will happen to them, and it has to be every parent’s worst nightmare; their child being snatched by someone who is later revealed to be a serial killer. Though unfortunately these types of stories rarely have happy endings, there have been a few cases where the intended victims have amazingly been able to make an escape and found their way back to freedom, before the otherwise inevitable outcome can take place.
Whether it be through a lucky break, a clever plan or just sheer determination, these 15 people have all managed to escape from calculated murderers in order to live another day and tell their incredible stories. A number of them even helped the police catch the culprits as a result, finally putting an end to the brutal killing sprees of some of the most disturbed killers in modern history. As you read their shocking and inspirational stories, put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself this: would you have made it out alive?
15. Caroline Roberts
Fred and Rosemary West are two of the most prolific serial killers in British history, having killed at least ten young women (between the two) from 1973 to 1987, the majority of whom they r*ped and tortured. The murderous couple’s cold blooded spree may have gone undetected for more than two decades, but surprisingly there was someone who managed to escape their clutches; their first intended victim, Caroline Roberts.
17-year-old Caroline began working as a nanny for the Wests in 1972, moving into their home on Cromwell Street, Gloucestershire, which later became known as the ‘House of Horrors’. However, the teenager began to feel uneasy when the couple started to make sexual advances towards her, so decided to return home. Two months later the pair kidnapped her under the pretense of giving her a ride home. She was then drugged and sexually assaulted by both Fred and Rose, with Fred later admitting to police that they had taken her with the intention of murdering her.
Thankfully, their plan didn’t come to fruition. After convincing her captors that she would willingly return to work for them as a nanny, Caroline was able to escape while visiting a laundrette with Rose the next day. The Wests were subsequently arrested and charged with r*pe, assault and actual bodily harm, but still traumatized from the ordeal, Caroline refused to testify in court and the case all but collapsed; the couple walked free from court with a fine of £50 each. This decision haunted Caroline until the day she died in August 2016. In a 1998 article for She Magazine, she wrote: “Not a day goes by when I don’t think about the girls who didn’t make it.
“Just three months after I escaped, the Wests killed their first victim – their baby-sitter, Lynda Gough. If I had gone through with a rape charge against Fred West back in 1972, Lynda and the other girls would still be alive.”
14. Roger Sproston
Roger Sproston was a 28-year-old from the UK’s West Midlands who was on the trip of a lifetime when he had a chilling experience in Los Angeles in 1980. After losing his job as an ice cream seller when the van was stolen on his first day, he was forced to hitchhike back to town. After half an hour of waiting, a red car eventually pulled up and offered him a ride. Roger described the driver in a Guardian article earlier this year; “He wasn’t physically imposing, but he was squat and well-built. He was clean-shaven, with short hair – a swarthy-looking bloke. There was no recognizable smell in the car, but the bad vibe this man gave off was almost overpowering”.
Roger was right to feel uneasy; after he asked the driver to just drop him at the side of the road, he pulled over and pulled a piece of cord out, suddenly attempting to strangle a terrified Roger with it. Fortunately he managed to fight him off, opening the car door with his foot in the process. Despite the scary ordeal it wasn’t until he spoke with local police that the gravity of the situation kicked in; the man was wanted serial killer William Bonin, also known as the ‘Freeway Killer’. Thankfully he was arrested ten days later, putting an end to a killing spree that had already claimed at least 14 lives.
13. Unnamed Ohio Woman
A woman in Ashland, Ohio managed to thwart her potential killer’s plan earlier this year by managing to call the police using his phone. Shawn Grate kidnapped the unnamed woman and took her to an abandoned house, where he tied her up and subjected her to hours of sexual abuse. However, when Grate eventually fell asleep she was able to wriggle free and called the police using his phone, whispering “I’ve been abducted” to the dispatcher.
When the police arrived at the house they found two bodies, and Grate later confessed to killing a total of five women since 2001, one of which was later identified as 43-year-old Stacey Stanley, who he had befriended at a gas station when she had a flat tire. Grate said rather chillingly of the killings: “They were already dead. Just their bodies were flopping wherever it can flop but their minds were already dead! The state took their minds. Once they started receiving their monthly checks.”
12. Lisa Mcvey Noland
Though it may be a rarity for serial killers to let their victims go, that’s exactly what happened to 17-year-old Lisa Noland in 1984. After being snatched from her bike on her way home from work, Bobby Joe Long, who had already assaulted more than 50 women and murdered eight, then forced her at gunpoint to get into his car. He took her to an apartment where she was subjected to 26 hours of brutal r*pe.
Rather amazingly, Lisa was able to use her quick wit to build a kind of rapport with her captor. She ‘talked to him like a four-year-old’ and told him: “It’s unfortunate how we met, you seem like a nice guy. I can take care of you, I’ll be your girlfriend, and I won’t tell anyone how we met.” Instead Long, who had seemingly developed sympathy for his victim by now, simply replied “no, no, I can’t keep you”, before dropping her off near her home in the middle of the night. Lisa then helped police locate Long, who was arrested and 30 years later is still on death row.
11. Tracy Edwards
There probably aren’t too many people who haven’t heard of Jeffrey Dahmer; the infamous serial killer who r*ped and murdered 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991, with his later crimes also involving cannibalism and necrophilia. What may be less known is the story of how he was finally brought to justice; and the man who instigated his arrest.
On July 22 1991, 32-year-old Tracy Edwards agreed to drink beers with Dahmer at his apartment after being offered $100 to do so. Once there, Dahmer tried and failed to handcuff Edwards, before threatening him with a knife and declaring he was going to eat his heart. After five hours of attempting to placate his abductor while planning his escape, Edwards saw his opportunity. He asked for permission to use the bathroom, then punched Dahmer in the face and ran out the front door. He then came across two police officers, and upon telling them what had happened they accompanied him back to the apartment, where a search revealed many human body parts littered throughout.
Surprisingly, this wasn’t actually the first time a victim had made an escape from Dahmer. Just a few months earlier, 14-year-old Konerak Sinthasomphone was found injured and disorientated in the street by three women. Police arrived at the scene, as did Dahmer, who managed to convince them that the boy was actually his 19-year-old lover. Despite protests from the boy as well as the local women, the police allowed Sinthasomphone to return to Dahmer’s apartment, where he was sexually abused and murdered that night.
10. Carol DaRonch
Ted Bundy confessed to 30 murders before his execution in 1989, though many people believe the total is likely to be much higher; some estimates have even suggested over 100. He lured women and girls into his infamous VW Beetle, with his good looks and charismatic personality aiding in his cold blooded plans. One victim who miraculously made it back out of the car was Carol DaRonch.
On November 8, 1974, the 18-year-old was approached by Bundy, who was posing as a police officer. He informed her that someone had tried to steal her car, and requested that she accompany him to the station to file a report. Despite feeling somewhat uneasy about the situation, she agreed and got into his car. Bundy then handcuffed her left hand, but was in such a hurry that he forgot to use the other handcuff. As a result, Carol was able to flee the car and wave down a passerby. Unfortunately, Bundy did go on to take another victim that night; 18-year-old Debra Kent.
9. Girl A
Futoshi Matsunaga is a Japanese serial killer who, with his female accomplice Junko Ogata, murdered at least seven people between 1996 and 1998. One such victim was Kumio Toraya, who was kidnapped and tortured by Matsunaga, along with his young daughter, known only as ‘Girl A’. Matsunaga used electric shocks to torture Kumio, forced him to eat his own faeces, and made Girl A bite him hard, eventually convincing her that she had killed him when he died due to the effects of the prolonged abuse. As if that wasn’t traumatic enough, Matsunaga then forced Girl A to take part in disposing of her father’s dismembered body.
Girl A managed to escape to her grandparents’ home in January of 2002, but after eight years of being abused by Matsunaga and Ogata they still had a hold of her, and she did not go to the police. Matsunaga soon discovered her whereabouts through her aunt, who he had been seeing at the time, and forced her to return to his home, where he tortured her with electric shocks. Thankfully, the girl, now 17 years old, refused to be broken. She escaped again a couple of months later and this time the police were alerted. Matsunaga and Ogata were arrested the next day; Matsunaga was sentenced to death by hanging and Ogata to life imprisonment.
8. Jennifer Asbenson
On the night of September 27, 1992, 19-year-old nursing assistant Jennifer Asbenson was waiting for her bus to work when she was offered a ride by man whom she thought seemed ‘so nice and so charming’. She accepted, and he dropped her off at work without incident. The next morning when she got off work at 6am, the man was waiting outside for her in his car. He offered to drive her home, and again she agreed. Little did she know that the stranger in question was actually Andrew Urdiales, a killer of women who had already committed four murders and would go on to commit at least another four.
Once in the car, Urdiales tied her hands and threatened her with a knife. He drove her to a remote spot in the desert where he submitted her to a brutal and terrifying sexual ordeal, before forcing her into the trunk of the car and speeding off. Knowing her life now depended on it, Jennifer desperately looked for a way out. She managed to free her bound hands, and searched for the opening of the trunk’s hood in the dark. She popped it open, jumped out and frantically waved down a passing truck, while Urdiales ran after her carrying a machete. Thankfully, the truck pulled up just in time and a pair of marines took her to the police station. Urdiales meanwhile, sped off – unfortunately it would be another five years before he was caught.
7. Tali Shapiro
Rodney Alcala r*ped and murdered at least eight women between 1971 and 1979, though some estimates have put his total victim count as high as 130 due to hundreds of photos of unidentified women being found in his possession. He was also known as the ‘Dating Game Killer’ as, despite being a registered sex offender, he was accepted as a contestant on the show in 1978 – a year before he was arrested for the murders.
Despite one police detective referring to Alcala as a ‘killing machine’, there was one survivor; an eight-year-old girl named Tali Shapiro. Alcala lured the youngster into his car by telling her he was a family friend, and that he had a beautiful picture to show her. Tali later said she didn’t remember much after that, but when the police arrived they found that she had been r*ped and beaten almost to death with a metal bar. Alcala fled out of the back door as soon as they arrived. Thankfully, Tali made a full recovery, but things could have been very different if it hadn’t been for one factor; a motorist had seen Alcala picking up the young girl and immediately called the police.
6. Kara Robinson
On September 9, 1996, 16-year-old Sofia Silva was taken from her front garden in Spotsylvania County. It wasn’t until a month later that her sad fate was revealed when her body was found in a river. Eight months later, when 15-year-old Kristin Lisk and her 12-year-old sister Kati were abducted and murdered in the same area, it became apparent that there was a serial killer on the loose. However, with no little evidence to go on the case remained unsolved until the killer took his next victim, five years later.
15-year-old Kara Robinson was gardening at a friend’s house when she was abducted at gunpoint by a man and taken to his apartment. After being handcuffed and r*ped repeatedly over a period of 18 hours, she saw her moment to escape when her captor finally fell asleep. She slipped out of one handcuff and ran out into the street. It was Kara’s detailed mental notes that lead the police to serial killer Richard Evonitz two days later.
5. Kate Moir
Kate Moir was 17 when she was abducted at knifepoint while returning home from a night out in November 1986. Her captors, David and Catherine Birnie, who have since become known as Australia’s worst serial killer couple, had already abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered four young women in the space of a month.
The couple took Kate to their home and r*ped her. Ceasing the moment the next day when Catherine Birnie left her unattended, Kate escaped through a window and ran to a nearby shopping center where she asked that the police be called. She showed great presence of mind throughout the ordeal; when David Birnie forced her to call home and pretend she was safe she memorized the phone number of the house, she managed to find the address and she even hid some of her belongings in the house to prove she had been held captive there.
French serial killer Michel Fourniret murdered at least seven women and young girls between the ages of 12 and 21, with his wife Monique Olivier being complicit in at least some of the killings — the pair had a pact whereby Olivier agreed she would find virgins for Fourniret if he murdered her ex-husband. The couple managed to continue their killing spree for a period of 14 years from the late 1980s, until a 17-year-old girl identified in court simply as ‘Marie’ finally brought about their downfall.
Marie was out walking in her hometown of Ciney, Belgium in June 2003, when she was abducted by Fourniret under the pretence of asking for directions. He forced her into the back of his truck and bound her hands and feet and when she tried to stop him from touching her breasts, he threatened to kill her.
3. Anna Williams
The next case is a little different to the others, in that the intended victim didn’t escape from a serial killer — in fact, she never met him. She definitely did have a lucky escape though! In 1979 Dennis Rader, aka the BTK (‘bind, torture, kill) Killer was still very much at large, despite having been on a murderous spree for 5 years already. He’d decided on his next victim; 63-year-old Anna Williams, whom he’d been stalking for months.
While Anna was out dancing on the evening of April 28, he broke into her home, cut her phone lines and even stole a few of her belongings as souvenirs. However, he clearly hadn’t anticipated Anna staying out for quite so long, and eventually he gave up waiting for her to return. Two months on, she received a chilling letter from BTK that included a particularly creepy poem titled “Oh Anna Why Didn’t You Appear?” It wasn’t until 2005 that the serial killer was finally brought to justice, having killed ten people between 1974 and 1991.
2. Marie Poveda
Pedro Lopez is one of the most prolific serial killers ever, having murdered at least 120 young girls since 1969. He often buried his victims in mass graves, and in Ambato, Ecuador, in 1980 one of these graves was disturbed by a flash flood. The bodies of four missing children were found as a result, and it became clear that there was a child killer at large in the neighborhood. It was only a few days later that Lopez was finally apprehended. How was he caught? He tried to abduct 12-year-old Marie while she was out shopping with her mother. Thankfully she managed to escape from him and her mother yelled out for help, prompting the locals in the marketplace to grab Lopez and keep hold of him until the police arrived.
Now a suspect for the child murders and disappearances of many other children, Lopez finally admitted his crimes while talking to a priest in prison. He claimed to have r*ped and killed more than 300 girls in Colombia, Peru and Ecuador, but shockingly he was released from a psychiatric hospital in 1998 after being found sane. No one is sure of his current whereabouts, but it has been reported that in 2002 Interpol released an advisory for his rearrest by Colombian authorities over a recent murder. This is something that probably could’ve been predicted, given his admission at the time of his earlier arrest: “The moment of death is enthralling and exciting. Only those who actually kill know what I mean. When I am released I will feel that moment again”…
1. Rhonda Williams & Timothy Cordell Kerley
Dean Corll was a serial killer who is known to have murdered at least 28 boys and young men between 1970 and 1973. He had two teenage accomplices; David Brooks and Elmer Wayne Henley, who would lure potential victims to Corll’s house and take part in their murders. The latter invited 19-year-old Timothy Cordell Kerley to the house on the evening of August 7, 1973, under the pretence of having a party. On the way there, Henley also picked up his friend Rhonda Williams, who had just been attacked by her drunken father.
The three teens passed out after a few hours of drinking and smoking marijuana, and when they woke up they discovered that Corll had tied them all up, explaining to Henley that he was angry at him for bringing a girl over, and as a result was going to kill all of them. Henley managed to placate Corll by agreeing to r*pe Williams while Corll did the same to Kerley. Williams then asked her friend Henley “is this for real?”, and when he simply replied “yes”, she said “are you going to do anything about it?” Henley then grabbed Corll’s gun and shot him in the chest and back, killing him. Both Henley and Brooks are currently serving life sentences for their parts in the murders.