by: Vickie Kinnard
My story of abused to survivor began October 4, 2013. It was a beautiful warm sunny day in LaPorte, TX, perfect for a wedding. Family gathered to celebrate the union of me and my fiancé, Sterling. He was tall, over six feet, thin, strong, and handsome. Sterling – his name fit him. I was blindsided by boldness, his humor and his knowing what was missing in my life. I was a successful counselor, having a sharp intuition for reading people. So, how did I misread the man I was about to marry? That is the million dollar question. By noon I had signed what most would call a marriage license; it was my death certificate.
The evil he had hid so well from me was soon to be unleashed. After spending a few days with my family, we left for an extended camping trip to Oklahoma. Driving over a railroad track a little too fast, the car bottomed out and in that instant my world changed. The blood dripping from my nose and running down my chin took a minute for me to comprehend; he had busted my nose and put two of my teeth through my top lip. Having never had a cross word with him in the last six months, surely this was an accident. He could not have meant to hit me.
Arriving where we would set up camp, things were good. I accepted his apology and even apologized myself for not being more careful driving over the railroad track. We talked and I expressed that hitting me was not OK and would never be OK and could not happen again or the marriage would be over before it even got started.
Two weeks passed without incident. I was happy and felt so safe with him. Then we broke camp and I set the GPS for home, back to Louisiana…back to reality. He informed me we were not going back to Louisiana. As I drive south, unsure of where I am actually going, my mind searches for clues to what is going on with my husband. We stop in Texas and set up camp again. We were there a few days; our one month anniversary rolled around. I had purchased him a small gift and was excited for him to have it. He was furious with me. How dare I try to make him feel bad and less of a man by getting him something, knowing he hadn’t gotten a gift for me. He raged for hours and then it happened; he broke my nose and blackened both my eyes. This was going to be the norm for me, and I realized I would not be going home.
While in Texas we celebrated Christmas and New Years. I thought this would be my last of both. He once again raged at Christmas, so angry he picked me up by my hair and threw me off the bed, ripping my scalp. I had never seen so much blood and I faded out of consciousness. When I woke he was sexually assaulting me. The more I screamed for him to stop the more he would hurt me. He punched me in the face and I was knocked unconscious. Grateful I don’t have to know all the details of what he did to me that night, just knowing I couldn’t stand up right for several days without excruciating pain, told me I didn’t want to know.
Over the next eight months we would mostly drive at night and camp deep in the woods of Georgia, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. By deep I mean about 30 miles from any town with no electricity, no water, and no help. During this time I always had black eyes, a broken nose, bruises, was sexually abused, and emotionally tortured.
March 2014, we arrived in Taos, NM. Things were going to be different, he had friends here. My chance to get away, I thought. Surely someone will help me here. We stayed in an abandoned trailer, still no water or electricity, but out of the elements, yet still no help. My screams were heard. I know they were, because porch lights would be turned off as I pleaded for my life. No one called 911 and no police came to rescue me. While in Taos I was beaten daily and at night the abuse would cross into the sadistic realm. He would sit on my chest, punch me in the nose then with a crushing grip around my neck, laugh as my mouth would fill with the blood from my nose. He would let go and watch me choke on my own blood and then rape me. The more blood there was, the more aroused he became. One day he drove out a dirt road to the edge of the Taos Gorge where he dragged me to the ledge. I knew he was going to shove me over, so I had a death grip on his arm. If I was going to die here, so was he.
On June 2, 2014 he told me we were leaving. I had ruined things with his friends, and because I had bled all over the trailer, we had to move. He wanted to go toward California; I wanted to go home. He had been successful in spending every penny I had and maxing out my credit cards. A payment on my car hadn’t been made since September and he was sure the police would be looking for it. I had officially become worthless to him. With the last full tank of gas, we drove toward Farmington. I knew Farmington would be my final chance to escape. I made that few-hours-long drive last over nine; then we ran out of gas at a Wal Mart. He hustled enough money for a tank of gas. We filled up but I refused to drive any further that night.
Resting was not going to happen as I sat in my car with a knife to my throat. My husband yelling at me, the details of how he’d slit my throat, gut me, and leave me in the desert where no one would find me if anyone even cared to look for me. I listened to this all night. At 3 a.m. he said it was time; he was pumped and ready to get this done. I told him I had to go to the restroom. It was an argument, but I convinced him if I went behind the store the security cameras would see me and the police would be called. To my surprise he allowed me to go inside. Unaware he was following me, I went in and at the first register was a lady with a look of total disgust and disbelief. She was looking right at me. I mouthed the words please call the police as I walked toward the bathroom. She was already on the phone before I finished my statement.
Literally, it took less than a minute or two for Officer Aikele to be walking toward me. As I looked past him, I saw my husband standing at the first register. In a blink of an eye my husband was gone. Had I really see him standing there? Yes, I did but I would not see him for several months after that moment. Scared, battered, bruised, and broken, Officer Aikele had the task of trying to comfort me, take my statement and even comprehend what I was saying. I am not even sure if I could put together a complete sentence. He was so professional and stern, yet gentle and comforting. I knew I was going to be safe. He made calls to find me a safe place to stay. I knew no one and had nowhere to go in New Mexico. Securing me a spot in a nearby safe house, he escorted and placed me in their care. In the safe house I met my case manager Amanda Lobato, who later became my victim advocate with the Farmington Police Department.
My story is not over, but I am no longer broken. My abuser will be released from his Hobbs, NM prison cell in February 2017. Regardless of what the future holds, the unknown is nowhere near as scary as my past.
I wanted to share my story of survival and to openly thank Officer Aikele for saving my life and Amanda Lobato for helping facilitate my recovery and being there for me during the trial and his entire court process. Words can never convey the gratitude and love I have for these two wonderful people. I pray for them by name daily and for the rest of the Farmington Police Department as a whole.