Tragically, many women abducted and held captive by murderers are unable to escape their attackers, resulting in their horrifying and senseless deaths. However, some very courageous and lucky women and girls were brave and fortunate enough to survive their close encounters with sadistic murderers and serial killers. And not just any killers - some of the scariest serial killers in history, like the Grim Sleeper, the Yorkshire Ripper, Ted Bundy, and Robert Hansen, to name just a few.
Whether it's due to good fortune, remarkable intelligence, or unending determination - or some combination of the three - these women who survived unsurvivable killer scenarios became real-life heroines after their close brushes with death. While these women who avoided being murdered were undoubtedly left with physical, emotional, and psychological scars, they came away from their shockingly scary experiences with some incredible stories of survival. These women are true survivors - some of whom went on to help other women with their experiences.
On September 29, 1978, in Berkeley, CA, 15-year-old Mary Vincent accepted a ride from Larry Singleton, a 51-year-old merchant seaman. However, instead of taking the teenager to her destination, Singleton raped Vincent, used a hatchet to cut off both of her forearms, and tossed her body off a 30-foot cliff near Modesto, CA. While Singleton left the teenager for dead, Vincent pulled herself back up the cliff, eventually getting the help of a passing motorist who took her to a hospital for urgent medical care.
Several months after nearly ending Vincent's life, Singleton was convicted of rape, kidnapping, attempted murder, mayhem, and oral sodomy, and he was given the maximum sentence at the time:14 years and four months. Incredibly, after serving just eight years behind bars, Singleton was released on parole and eventually relocated to Tampa, FL. On February 19, 1997, one of Singleton's neighbors called the police and reported a struggle at Singleton's home. Law enforcement officers responded and found the elderly convict covered in blood and the lifeless body of Roxanne Hayes, a mother of three, on the floor of his home.
In 1998, Singleton was tried and convicted of stabbing Hayes to death and Mary Vincent, whose prosthetic arms were a silent testament to Singleton's brutality, appeared at his sentencing hearing to testify about the depraved and ruthless attack he subjected her to when she was only 15 years old. Singleton was given the death sentence for killing Hayes, but he died in a prison hospital in 2001. In the years after she was mutilated and left for dead by Singleton, Vincent went on to create an organization - the Marie Vincent Foundation - to help other survivors of violent crimes, become a mother, and embark on a career as an artist, making her an inspiration to many.
While riding her bike home from work on November 3, 1984, 17-year-old Lisa McVey Noland was kidnapped by Bobby Joe Long and taken back to his Tampa, FL, home where she was tied up and blindfolded. For 26 hours, Long repeatedly raped Noland at gun-point, while she begged him not to kill her. While she was afraid her captor would end her life, Noland felt his face, making mental notes of his pockmarks and mustache, so she would be able to describe him to police if she survived the attack. Noland also made sure to leave her fingerprints all over his bathroom in order to prove to law enforcement that she had been held captive in his home.
Incredibly, after being imprisoned for more than a day by a serial killer who had already murdered several women, Noland managed to convince Long to let her go, telling him her father was ill and relied on her for help. After reporting the terrifying ordeal to the police, Long was arrested and he was eventually convicted of multiple murders and given the death penalty for his crimes.
While Long is on Florida's death row awaiting his execution, Noland went on to become a Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy. As a member of law enforcement, Noland uses her unique skills and experiences to protect her community from people like Long. Two decades after she was kidnapped and raped by one of Florida's most notorious serial killers, Long said: "I'm a survivor and a warrior. There's no victim."
In 1989, 30-year-old Enietra Washington was walking to a friend's home in South Los Angeles, CA, when she reluctantly accepted a ride from Lonnie Franklin, Jr., after he repeatedly offered to give her a lift. He told her, "That’s what’s wrong with you Black women. People can’t be nice to you." Not wanting to seem aloof or rude, she made got into his vehicle. After making a stop at his uncle's house, Franklin - without warning - shot Washington in the chest. When she tried to flee the car, Franklin told her he would shoot her again. Then Franklin raped Washington in his vehicle while she bled from the wound in her chest, at one point taking a picture of her bloodied body.
After raping the 30-year-old woman two times, Franklin simply opened the door of his car and pushed Washington out into the street. Struggling to remain conscious, Washington managed to get a friend's house and eventually received the medical attention she needed to survive the attack. Nearly two decades later, Franklin was apprehended with the help of familial DNA and was later convicted of murdering 10 victims between 1985 and 2007.
Washington was a star witness at his trial, and her powerful testimony undoubtedly helped put the serial murderer, who was dubbed the "Grim Sleeper" by the press, behind bars for the rest of his life. After Franklin shot her in the chest, Washington told him: "If I die I am going to haunt you." Thankfully, she managed to survive the attack and got her own justice.
On June 13, 1983, Robert Hansen abducted 17-year-old Cindy Paulson and took her back to his home in Anchorage, AK, where he chained her up and subjected the teenager to terrifying acts of rape, torture, and sexual assault. Then, Hansen forced Paulson into his vehicle and drove to a nearby airport. Hansen - a bakery owner with a wife and two children - attempted to make the 17-year-old board his private plane. However, the teenager, certain her captor would kill her if got onto the aircraft, managed to escape. With handcuffs still on her wrists, she flagged down a passing motorist who took her to safety.
While Paulson immediately reported the abduction and rape to law enforcement - even providing them with information that led them right to Hansen's door - the local business owner managed to convince police the teenager was trying to extort money from him. Months later, the authorities finally arrested Hansen for committing multiple murders. A psychological criminal profile by the FBI confirmed the man who attacked Paulson was most likely the serial killer who had taken the lives of multiple women in Anchorage.
Hansen was given life in prison for his crimes and ultimately died of natural causes in 2014 while in police custody. Paulson went on to get married and have three children, and when a movie was made about Hansen, she actually met with Vanessa Hudgens - who played her in the film - to share the details of her escape.