“A front seat on a roller coaster of terror.”
—Dennis McDougal, author of
The Yosemite Murders
“Some of the most up-close, incisive true-crime coverage in a long time.”
—Poppy Z. Brite, author of
The Real Story
“A powerful and frightening book. It is not to be missed.”
—Dana Holliday, author of
Zodiac of Death
She lay completely still. In fear, but quiet. She glanced up at the intruder who stood over her with one knee on the bed. He aggressively placed a sharp blade on the left side of her throat. It was a ten-inch knife with a seven-inch blade, almost three inches wide. The sharp edge grazed against her cheek. Shelly stifled a scream. She had no idea what to do.
The man added to the tension when he leaned into her face, his breath smelling of liquor and cigarettes.
“Do you have any sharp kitchen knives?” he inquired. Shelly looked up at him with pleading eyes. She did not want to answer. “Sharp enough to cut your throat with?”
Shelly closed her eyes and began to cry. She did not want to die here. Not like this. “I don’t know,” she replied.
“Don’t worry, mine is.”
In Loving Memory of Lisa Mitchell
Forever by your side
A Message from the Author
My wife, Lisa Mitchell, died unexpectedly on April 28, 2002. She was 1,200 miles away visiting her parents, while I was halfway through with this book.
For the next eight months I could not think of anything but my grief. The last thing I wanted to do was to write a book about rape and murder. But I remembered how she listened to me read the manuscript while she cooked pasta in our cozy West Hollywood apartment. How she made helpful suggestionswhen I went astray. How she desperately wanted me to tell this story.
Lisa wanted me to tell it because she had also been a rape victim. Lisa, always stoic by nature, maintained an untarnished demeanor her whole life. She chose not to discuss it. That began to change in the last couple of years. She started to express an interest in speaking out about what happened to her. She hoped I would become a successful writer so she could help others.
One of Lisa’s two rapists was freed in early 2002. He supposedly“found God” and was living a “righteous” life. She worried that this man could become another Rex Krebs, freed from prison for a vicious crime, only to be paroled and allowed to walk the streets. She wanted this book to be publishedto alert the public to the absurdity of paroling rapists.
On the morning of April 28, I completed the section on recidivism among rapists as well as the underreporting of rapes by victims. Lisa never got to read those passages.
I got the call from my Mom. Lisa had died in her childhood home from sudden arrhythmic death syndrome.She was only thirty-eight years old. She never got to help other rape victims.
Maybe now she can.
November 12, 1998
San Luis Obispo, California
Rachel Lindsay Newhouse stumbled outside of the brightly lit restaurant onto the dark, chilly streets of San Luis Obispo. She was intoxicated and upset. She had a fight with her roommate Andrea West, and she was ready to go home. The only problem was she did not have her car. The girls rode togetherin Andrea’s car and Rachel was not about to ask her best friend for a ride. Not after their argument.
Rachel gathered her wits about her and stepped onto Nipomo Street, where the restaurant Tortilla Flats, or “the Flats,” as the locals liked to call it, is located. The Flats is a trendy Mexican-foodrestaurant that serves passable California Mexican cuisine, but whose main priorities are their top-shelf margaritas. That was the reason why Rachel was there in the first place. She was out celebrating with the Beta Theta Pi fraternity on this Thursday night and was ready to partake of the Sauza-tequila-and-limeconcoctions with no hassles. At twenty years of age, however, Rachel Newhouse was not old enough to drink legally in the state of California.
Neither was Andrea West, her roommate. It was because of that that Rachel found herself standing outside the restaurant and shivering instead of inside throwing back another margaritawith some cute guys from her college, Cal Poly.
Andrea, who was also only twenty, could not get into the bar side of the Flats. Both girls had employed the old “smudged stamp” routine to attempt to get inside. Some drinking establishments will mark the top of their customers’ hands with a black felt-tip marker or a black stamp, which is a signal to the doorman that they have already been inside and can reenter without hassle. Minors who want to circumventthe whole identification process at the door merely get someone who has legally gained entrance into the bar to offer up their stamp. The minor licks the top of his or her hand and rubs it against the marked customer, thus creating a reasonablefacsimile of the stamp.
At least that was the game plan.
Rachel Newhouse’s smudged stamp worked with no problem.She immediately bolted in and began to enjoy the festive atmosphere. Unfortunately for Andrea, the doorman stopped her and informed her that she would not be allowed in the bar side. She could only enter the restaurant side. Andrea stood by herself for the next hour, until she finally saw Rachel leave the bar side and head toward the rest room. Andrea met her at the door and began to complain. Soon the girls started to argue. Suddenly Rachel tore out of the restaurant, leaving Andreabehind. Once outside, Rachel waited shortly, hoping her friend would follow her. When Andrea did not appear, she took off.
As Rachel headed east on Nipomo Street, she began to shiver in the brisk Central California coastal air. Downtown San Luis Obispo is located only seventeen miles from the PacificOcean and decorated with such gorgeous beaches as Shell Beach, Pismo Beach, and Avila Beach. The usually picture-perfectsunny enclaves are harbingers for fog and cold weather in the wintertime and make for a chilly environment all around. Dressed only in black jeans and a dark blue silk shirt, Rachel was very cold. She was also nearly two miles away from her comfortable white wooden house located on the dead-end Gerda Street.
Rachel took a left onto Higuera Street and walked another half mile. At this time of night, it was not crowded. Had she walked out an hour earlier, she would have encountered severalstragglers from the weekly farmers’ market. The market is a gathering of hundreds of revelers who enjoy shopping for fruits and vegetables, reading informative brochures from political-mindedorganizations and several nonprofits groups, eating barbecue ribs and brisket sandwiches from an outdoor smoker, catching a live puppet show, and dancing to the strains of a new musical group every week. The internationallyknown gathering takes over this area of downtown for the evening and keeps it well populated. By the time Rachel left the Flats, the market had already dispersed. The streets were almost empty.
Rachel passed the Downtown Centre, the local minimall. She eventually came to Osos Street, where she took a right and headed east. Rachel walked along the sidewalk past severalwell-kept Victorian-style homes and past a few apartment complexes. She headed toward familiar territory—the JenniferStreet Bridge, an intriguing structure that had only gone up earlier that year. Its intentional rust-colored exterior loomed over the local train tracks like some kind of manic erector set, but it served a useful purpose—especially for Rachel. The bridge crossed over the railroad tracks in front of the restored Amtrak station and allowed pedestrians and bicycliststo cross over into the Jennifer Street neighborhood.
Rachel had no reason to be scared as she walked home. She was almost to the halfway point to her three-bedroom house nestled in the southeastern section of the neighborhood.There was only one semilarge task for Rachel.
Crossing the Jennifer Street Bridge.
The Jennifer Street Bridge is an ominous structure, even in the daylight, with its hulking, rusted exterior and a maze of stairs, handicap ramps, and railings. Not to mention the poor lighting. When you climb the fifty-eight stairs to reach the height of a three-story building, you are thrust out onto the crossover that is encased with a firm crisscross wire system in every direction—on both sides and overhead. The encasing allowsone to see the underlit train station, which is located approximately fifty yards to the northwest. The bridge itself, however, maintains a slight hovering glow due to the sporadic lights festooned along the lower portion of the railing.
Rachel turned off Osos Street and onto Jennifer Street, a cul-de-sacof sorts that provides access for automobiles to park in the train station waiting area. It also provides space for patrons of several popular hangouts, including Café Roma and a corner convenience store. It was a heavily populated area.
She felt safe.
Rachel grasped the rust-colored handrail and thought about heading up the stairs. Instead, she walked a little farther and shuffled up the winding handicapped-access ramp. The shadowsplayed tricks on her eyes as they cast a shimmering maroon shadow through the rails. The combination of shadowsand an inebriated mental state caused Rachel to move at a slow, deliberate pace.
Rachel’s actions had drawn the attention of a man in the parking lot facing the bridge. He had been sitting in his 1993 blue Ford Ranger pickup truck. He could comfortably hide underneaththe shadows inside his huge vehicle. The man watched as the young woman staggered toward the bridge. He assessed the situation laid out before him and decided to take action. He grabbed something from the front seat of the truck and headed up the stairs. He hustled up the poorly lit concrete-and-metalstaircase before she arrived at the bridge. She had no idea what waited for her up top. Besides, her focus was on one task and nothing else.
Instead of waiting for her at the top of the staircase, he stepped onto the crosswalk portion of the bridge. He liked the darkness of his perch. The wire seemed to remind him of something, but he could not quite conjure up its importance. He stealthily glided one-quarter of the way up the bridge and turned around. The girl was only now about to reach the head of the staircase. He looked down at the item he grabbed from the front seat of his truck and chuckled under his breath. He then pulled it over his head.
He peered through the eyes of a skull mask left over from a recent Halloween party. It was the perfect addition to an increasinglyfrightening scenario. As he looked through the eyeholes, he saw the beautiful girl. She was petite, but large-breasted.She had gorgeous shoulder-length blond hair. She was breathing heavily.
And she did not even notice him.
Maybe she just acts like I don’t exist.
Just like the others.
The excitement began to course through his body. He was aroused and angered. He knew what he had to do.
Rachel Newhouse was on the bridge and she knew she was almost home. She tried to ignore the other person. She just wanted to get home. Once she made it to the other side of the Jennifer Street Bridge, she would spot something special—a street sign for Rachel Street. It always brought a smile to her face when she saw it.
As soon as that glimmer of hope popped into her mind, she finally glanced at the other person on the bridge. Something seemed odd about the man. At 5’7”, he seemed to be near her height. He was much broader, however, and his face seemed unusual. She could not really make out why he looked so strange, due to the poor lighting. To make matters worse, the man wasn’t walking across the bridge. He had stopped and was actually facing her. Rachel tried to blow it off and keep on towardher final destination. She walked within three feet of the man when she looked up into the face of horror.
All she saw was a huge skull. At the same time she heard a loud
as something hard smashed up against her temple.
Rachel Newhouse would never see Rachel Street again.