One Third Of All Abductions Occur On School Routes
On May 1, 2001 at 3:45 p.m., 11-year-old Leah Henry stepped off the school bus about a block from her home in Houston, TX. Within moments she was lured into her kidnapper’s small, hatchback sedan. Leah’s parents called the police when they could not locate her by 8:30 p.m. Within two days the authorities had tied Leah’s disappearance to the recent kidnappings of two other little girls. Fortunately, those girls had been released after several days of captivity. However, the abductors behavior had become more violent with each victim.
On May 4, 260 miles away Sheriff’s Deputy David Billeiter responded to a tip about unusual activity at a shack near rural Kerrville, TX. Upon arriving, he blocked in the small hatchback. Deputy Dilleiter knew that he had his man when the driver exited the vehicle with gun in hand. When the perp opened the passenger door to pull Leah out, she instead scooted out the driver’s door. With his weapon pointed at the Deputy the kidnapper told Leah to, “Run to the cop”. The deputy secured Leah inside his vehicle and backed away from the scene. Moments later a single gunshot rang out. The kidnapper had committed suicide.
“He shot himself and it sucks for the victim,” Leah recently told me. “I knew that he wouldn’t be able to hurt any more children, but I was left with all that pain. Nobody knows, nobody can imagine.”
“I hated therapy. I started going as soon as I got free, but I didn’t want to talk to anybody. I just wanted to close up. I felt like the therapist just smiled at me while I cried, so I stopped going. Instead I locked myself in the bathroom and did homework until my hour was up. I had to find my own therapy.”
“I struggled to find my voice, but in high school I finally connected with an art therapy teacher. She said that whenever I thought of him, whether it was an emotional or physical trigger, to write it down. For two years I collected those notes in a box. When I felt like I didn’t have any triggers left my two closest friends joined me for a little ceremony where I burnt the box. It symbolized my ability put being a victim behind me. It felt good, because I was a survivor and not a victim any longer.”
“About 2 ½ years ago I decided to move to Washington to start over, but I put off my trip because my best friend, my dog, was sick. When he finally passed it rocked my world. I lost weight and I wanted to give up. I needed change, so I put everything I owned in my car and took off. I drove 16-hours straight to Colorado where I stayed for a week hiking mountain trails with a friend’s dog. Then I drove another 16-hours to my destination. Moving to Washington State was the best choice I made in years, because the solitude was cathartic.”
“I still struggle and sometimes I can feel myself fall into victim mode, but that is not me. I am strong and I have a voice. There are certain places I visit, like a waterfall in the mountains, where I can forget everything bad. I bought another black lab and he goes everywhere with me. I no longer have to surround myself with people because I have finally learned to appreciate my own company. Washington has turned me into a boring old woman and I kind of like that.”
“The opportunity to do They Took Our Child came at the perfect time, because I was finally ready to tell my story, my way. When you contacted me about doing the show, I was very open to sharing my full story and felt it was an opportunity to also visit my mentor, teacher, and dear friend Art Letourneau. After agreeing to do the show, I texted him to tell him about my upcoming trip and was also hoping to see him while I was in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, he passed that very morning before he could read my text, but I know he would be very proud of me. Last week, I was sitting on the lake finishing the book ‘Hope’ by two of the survivors of Cleveland abduction. I closed the book to a rush of unsettling emotions. Moments later Katie from They Took Our Child called to tell me that my show would be airing a week later. Participating in this show has brought about a lot of powerful healing moments for me.”
“I now know that it is okay to have those feelings, and to share them so that I may help the next person who is afraid to speak out or face difficulties. In turn, it helps me to know that I can make that kind of difference. My story, along with every other survivors story, is powerful and worth being heard becauseiIt could save someone’s life.”