Vanessa was walking her dog on her “regular loop” when she suddenly found herself fighting for her life.
As CBS 4 Denver reports, the 29-year-old woman from Littleton, Colorado was walking her dog down their usual trail last week when she passed a man she’d seen the previous day.
Vanessa (who prefers to keep her last name private) wrote on Facebook that instinct told her something was amiss:
He didn’t make eye contact with me and I got a very strange vibe. Somehow he made it on the other side of the loop, meaning he must’ve cut through the woods somewhere knowing where I was headed. The dog and I passed him and I said excuse me. About 30 seconds later I noticed him very close behind me.
As Vanessa noticed the strange man behind her, she also saw that he was carrying a rope. Unfortunately, he was so close to her that she couldn’t escape before the rope was around her neck:
He strangled me from behind and drug me into the woods about 15 feet off the trail where he removed almost all of my clothes. He continued to choke me using his hands, the rope, and with a bandanna of some sort. I fought like hell and screamed my brains out, even my sweet dog tried to fight him and bite him as much as she could.
Vanessa says the man threatened to kill her — probably in an attempt to get her to stop screaming. He hog tied her and then began looking for his missing glasses. All the while, Vanessa continued to beg for freedom, even offering to help find the glasses. She wrote that, “I thought that this could be the end but I was not about to give up fighting for my life.”
While the man was looking for his glasses, Vanessa managed to get free of the knots around her ankles. She then ran for her life:
I made it to the bike path almost completely naked screaming for help. I’m so thankful there were people around that ultimately were able to protect me.
One of the park visitors found the man who had attacked Vanessa and restrained him until police arrived. Police later identified her attacker as Johnny Dewayne Harris, a 48-year-old registered sex offender with multiple arrest warrants. Harris is now in jail, charged with kidnapping and sexual assault.
Vanessa was able to find her dog after the attack and is now recovering from her injuries. Friends have created a GoFundMe campaign to help her with medical bills.
After what she described as, “the worst day of my life,” Vanessa wanted to share the experience with others as a warning. She wrote:
I am putting this post up to remind each and every one of you, please be aware of your surroundings at all times. Even if you have been on your local path, your grocery store parking lot, or anywhere 100 times, danger can exist anywhere. I am lucky to be alive, so please have a plan in place to protect yourself from whatever may be out there.
Though she may have been through a harrowing ordeal, Vanessa says she’s feeling better now and is grateful for the support she has received. She told CBS 4, ““I‘m not a victim, I survived, I kept fighting and I am survivor.”