More than two decades ago, a man stalked and attacked 10 young women in the D.C. area – one of them was found dead – and even though his DNA was found at 10 crime scenes, he wasn’t caught.
The Potomac River Rapist’s second victim, who was his youngest, said she feels only now, almost 26 years later, can she show her face and share her story publicly to help other women.
Kelly was an 18-year-old college student babysitting three small children at a home in Germantown, Maryland, in September 1991, when her attacker broke in, threw a blanket over her head, tied her up and brutally raped her.
“He had taken phone cords and tied me behind my back with my ankles,” she said. “He had pulled my shirt up over my head.”
As he raped her, he talked to her and she learned he'd been watching her and her boyfriend, who had gone home.
“He said things like, ‘Was that your boyfriend that was here?’ I said yes. ‘Why weren’t you having sex with him?’” Kelly said.
After the rape, he didn't leave. Kelly could hear his footsteps in the house. He even went into the refrigerator.
Then she broke free.
“I remember taking these phone cords that were, doubled, tripled, I don’t know how many times they were wrapped around me and just felt like Superwoman,” she said. “I ripped the cords, I used my face to rub on the carpet to get my shirt off of my head so that I could see, and I got up and I ran.”
But the front door was locked and the key needed to open it wasn’t there. She ran upstairs and screamed for help.
When police arrived, the rapist was gone. He ran into the wooded area behind the house and vanished.
“It changed my life in bad ways but in good ways,” Kelly said. “It made me stronger. It made me more of a fighter, I think.”
She said having a supportive family and getting years of counseling helped her move on from the attack.
“You just go through the feelings of you’re not worthy,” she said. “Why did this happen to you? And then you’re 18, and now I’m like damaged goods, so who wants me?”
She's now a wife, a nurse and a mother hoping to help other victims.
“If they can hear my story and learn just something. If I can help them not feel dirty, or not feel ashamed, then it’s worth it to me now,” she said.
She looks forward to a day when the Potomac River Rapist is locked up.
“If he were to be arrested, I’d be right there,” she said. “I would look him in the eyes, because he has no control over me anymore.
Kelly said she had a feeling someone may have been watching her that night. An important lesson she will share with her children is for them to always trust their instincts.