13 Real-Life 'I Survived' Stories That Will Horrify And Fascinate You

13 Real-Life ‘I Survived’ Stories That Will Horrify And Fascinate You


Mary Vincent

I Survived

In late September of 1978 then 15-year-old Mary Vincent was hitchhiking from Berkeley, California when she was picked up by 50-year-old Lawrence Singleton. Singleton stripped and bound Mary in the back of his van and repeatedly raped her. When she begged him to set her free, he evilly said to her, “You want to be set free, I’ll set you free.”

Singleton pulled out a hatchet and hacked off Mary’s left arm right below the elbow. Mary, who did not go into shock and felt everything, started kicking and screaming as Singleton grabbed her right arm and began chopping. Because she fought back, this mutilation took longer. Mary recounted seeing Singleton flicking his arm afterwards, because her right hand held on even after he cut her arm off. Believing her to be dead Singleton dragged Mary, naked and bleeding profusely, to the edge of a 30 foot cliff and threw her off the side.

Despite wanting to go to sleep, Mary fought the urge because she “couldn’t have him do this to someone else.” Mary packed her bleeding arms with dirt to stop some of the bleeding, and climbed her way back up the ravine. She recalled being able to make out the sounds of a freeway, and began walking that way to find help. The first car, a red convertible with two men, took one look at Mary who was covered from head to toe in blood and had no arms, and sped away. After walking over 3 miles in search of help, a couple on their honeymoon who had gotten lost found Mary. They helped her into their truck, raced their way to a phone to call the paramedics, and a rescue helicopter lifted Mary to the hospital.

10 days later Lawrence Singleton was identified by his neighbor from Mary’s description and police sketch, and he was arrested and charged. The next time Mary saw him was six months later at the trial. He was convicted of rape and attempted murder, and sentenced to 14 years in prison which was the maximum term allowed under California law at the time. When he was done testifying and Mary was leaving the courthouse, Singleton whispered to her, “If it’s the last thing I do I’ll finish the job.”

Singleton was granted parole in 1987, after serving just 8 years. He returned to his native Florida after his release, and was arrested in 1997 for the murder of Roxanne Hayes. He was sentenced to death, but died of cancer in 2001.

Mary Vincent has two sons, a boyfriend, and is an accomplished artist who has frequently spoken out about victim’s rights.


Krystal Surles

CBS News

In 1999 10-year-old Krystal Surles was staying at a family friend’s house in Del Rio, Texas with her 7-year-old sister while they waited for their family to move with them from Kansas. Krystal was staying in a room with 13-year-old Katy Harris, the daughter of the family keeping the girls, as her sister slept in the other room.

On the night of December 31, 1999, Tommy Lynn Sells broke into the Harris house and stabbed Katy multiple times before slashing her throat. Krystal, hearing her friend scream, woke up to watch Sells murder her friend with an 11-inch butcher knife. She tried to hide against the wall of the top bunk where she had been sleeping, but as Sells went to leave the room he turned around and spotted her. Sells reached over, grabbed Krystal, and slit her throat.

Krystal crawled across the floor and tried to comfort her friend, but realized she couldn’t speak. Her windpipe had been slashed and a vocal chord nicked during the attack. She recalled realizing she need to get out of the house, so despite being in just her pajamas and having no shoes, walked to the neighbors’ house and banged on the door for help.

Krystal was rushed to surgery and upon waking up, provided enough of a description to investigators that they were able to identify Sells. She would later immediately pick him out of a photo lineup while still in the hospital. When Sells was arrested he said, “I’m glad I finally got caught – I was tired of doing this.”

9 months later, Krystal took the stand to testify against Sells for her own attempted murder and the murder of Katy she had witnessed. The jury deliberated for only an hour before convicting Sells on all counts. He was sentenced to death and executed in 2014.


Tanya Nicole Kach


Tanya Nicole Kach was just 14 in 1996 when she was kidnapped by 48-year-old Thomas Hose, a security guard who worked at her school in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. Hose developed an infatuation with the then 8th grader, often sneaking her out of class to flirt with her and kiss her when he’d catch her ditching school. He convinced her to run away from home and would hold her captive for the next ten years.

For the first four years of her captivity, Tanya wasn’t allowed to leave the second story bedroom of Hose’s house, given that he lived with his parents and his 22-year-old son, and was even forced to go to the bathroom in a steel bucket. He threatened to kill her if she told anyone about her captivity. In 2000, Hose gave Tanya the new identity “Nikki Allen” who he claimed was his live-in girlfriend to family and friends. Tanya recalls being brainwashed by Hose since he would threaten to kill her and her family if she told anyone who she really was, and kept her in the house as his sex slave.

In 2006, Tanya broke down and told a convenience store manager who she had befriended about her true identity. She was reunited with her family after being officially identified on a missing person’s website. Despite his attorneys saying Tanya stayed with Hose by her own free will, he was convicted in 2007 on counts of  involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, statutory sexual assault, interfering with the custody of a child, corruption of a minor and child endangerment, and sentence to 15 years.

Tanya tried, unsuccessfully, to sue different organizations like the police department and the school board for failing her. She later wrote a New York Times Bestselling book about her ordeal.


Paul Martin Andrews


Dubbed “The Boy in the Box”, Paul Martin Andrews was abducted January 11th, 1973 when he was just 13 by Richard Ausley, a convicted child abuser.

On that day, Ausley stopped Paul as the pre-teen was walking to a convenience store from his Portsmouth, Virginia home asking for help moving some furniture. When Paul obligied, Ausley drove him 20 miles outside of the town at knife point to a deserted logging road. It was there that he forced Paul into a 4 ft. by 4 ft. by 7 ft box which would be a torture chamber. Over the next 8 days, Ausley would rape Paul repeatedly, chaining him into the box whenever he would leave. By a stroke of fate or luck, on that 8th day Paul heard some nearby hunters walking by and managed to wedge open the lid and cry for help.

Ausley turned himself in a few days after Paul was rescued, and was sentenced to 48 years in prison. However, in 2003 under Virginia’s old parole laws, which have since been discarded, 17 years were taken off his sentence and he was scheduled to be released. This prompted Paul to come forward with his story to advocate for the rights of rape victims. Ausley’s sentence was given an additional five years when another victim came forward, and he was murdered in prison just a year later.

Paul moved to South Florida where he became a computer repair man, an active member of his local Presbyterian church, and met the man who would become his partner in 1980.


Teka Adams

Lived to Tell

9 months pregnant and just days from her due date, Teka Adams was homeless when she got into Veronica Deramous’ car, believing the woman was going to take her to a warehouse with baby supplies for disadvantaged mothers. Instead Deramous took Teka back to her apartment, attacked her with a boxcutter, and with the help of her 17-year-old son bound Teka with duct tape and held her hostage on a futon mattress.

On December 5th 2009, Deramous came into the room where she was holding Teka hostage with a bunch of towels and a bowl filled with ice and water. She reportedly told Teka to bite down on a washcloth and began to attempt to cut her abdomen open with a box cutter in order to steal Teka’s unborn baby. Teka miraculously was able to escape the apartment with her abdomen cut open, intestines and placenta exposed, and get away from her attackers. An emergency c-section was performed, and Teka had a healthy baby girl who she named Miracle.

At the 2010 trial, Deramous tried to claim that Teka had sold her the baby for $5000, and Teka lunged her way before being escorted from the courtroom. Deramous was found guilty of first degree assault and sentenced to 25 years in prison.


Jennifer Morey

I Survived

In Houston, Texas during 1995, Jennifer Morey was a young lawyer living alone in an apartment complex she’d chosen because it seemed like a safe place to live. After spending the night of April 15th at an alehouse with some friends, Jennifer returned home, locked her deadbolt, washed her face, brushed her teeth, and went to bed.

Jennifer awoke to the feeling of someone on top of her, tugging at her underwear, with a knife pressed against her throat. She began screaming for her assailant not to hurt her and fighting back with all of her might. Jennifer’s screams were so loud she woke up 15 of her neighbors in other units. Not one of them called 911.

Her attacker slashed the right side of her face during their fight and continually used her name saying, “Jennifer shut the hell up!” Despite realizing the man knew her, she didn’t recognize his voice. Eventually their fight culminated with the man on top of Jennifer with his knife at her neck, and he slit her throat before tossing her into the bathroom, presumably to leave her for dead.

Jennifer mustered up the strength that she had to keep the bathroom door closed with the lower half of her body until she was sure the man was out of her apartment. She then struggled out of the bathroom to find that her power had been cut and her phone line had been cut. But thankfully she found her cell phone, hid back in the bathroom, and called 911.

911 dispatcher Richard Everett took the call from Jennifer, assuring her that help was on the way and stayed on the line trying to keep her calm. While on the line with Richard, Jennifer heard a pounding at her front door. The man at the front door was Bryan Gibson, claiming to be from security of Jennifer’s apartment complex. But Richard, going off a gut instinct, told Jennifer to not open the door.

When police arrived on the scene they were greeted by Gibson, who claimed he’d been jumped by a man who ran from Jennifer’s apartment into the woods. It didn’t take investigators long to piece together that Gibson had fabricated the story about being jumped, and was actually the man who attacked Jennifer. He was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 20 years, and Jennifer also won a civil case against the security company who had hired Gibson despite his criminal record.

Jennifer is now a successful attorney as well as a motivational speaker. When she married her now husband, Richard Everett attended her wedding.


Michelle Renee

Personal Photo

In November of 2000 Michelle Ramskill-Estey (now known as Michelle Renee) was playing video games with her 7-year-old daughter Breea when 3 armed men broke into their California home and held them both hostage. They bound the both mother, daughter, and Michelle’s roommate with duct tape and strapped them with explosives demanding that Michelle go to the Vista, California Bank of America where she was the manager and get them $360,000. After withdrawing the money Michelle went home to her unharmed daughter and roommate, and it turned out the explosives were fake.

Christopher Butler, Robert Ortiz and Christopher Huggins were all convicted, Butler receiving over 50 years for the kidnapping and robbery. Michelle herself was a suspect at first, but was cleared of any suspicion. She wrote a book, Held Hostage, about the event which was eventually turned into a Lifetime original movie.


Kathy Kleiner, Karen Chandler, and Cheryl Thomas

From left to right—Kathy, Karen, and Cheryl.

In 1978 Kathy Kleiner, Karen Chandler were sorority sisters of Chi Omega at Florida State University and Cheryl Thomas (all girls were 21) was a student at FSU as well. On January 15th in the early hours of the morning, infamous serial killer Ted Bundy broke into the Chi Omega house and brutally murdered two of the sisters before attacking Kathy and Karen. Bundy broke Kathy’s jaw, knocked out several of her teeth, and deeply lacerated her shoulder. Karen suffered a concussion, a fractured skull, broken jaw and teeth, and was covered from head to toe in gashes from the club Bundy used to beat her. It was later determined Bundy murdered the two sisters and beat Kathy and Karen in under 15 minutes and without waking 30 potential witnesses before fleeing the scene.

After disappearing from the Chi Omega house Bundy broke into the basement apartment of Cheryl Thomas, where he dislocated her shoulder and fractured her jaw and skull in five different places. Bundy left behind a semen stain on her bed, a pantyhose “mask”, and hair samples. Cheryl suffered permanent deafness and a balance disorder as a result of the attack, which ended her dreams of being a professional dancer.

Ted Bundy was eventually executed for his countless murders in January of 1989. His true number of victims was never discovered.

Kathy Kleiner’s recovery after the attack was long and extremely painful as she had to have her jaw wired shut for over 3 months. At the time of the attack she had been majoring in interior design, but never returned to school. She had a son from her first marriage, and became engaged again after her divorce.

Karen Chandler married an engineer and had two children.

Cheryl Thomas eventually went back to school and completed her bachelor’s degree in dance, and went on to receive a master’s degree in deaf education. She opened a ballet studio, got married and had a daughter, as well as focused on teaching and mentoring other deaf individuals.


Jennifer Miller

Jennifer Miller pictured here with Robbie Chester.

On June 2nd, 2011 Robin “Robbie” Chester came home high on cocaine and imprisoned his then girlfriend, Jennifer Miller, for what she would later describe as “a night of terror.”

Chester, threatening Jennifer with a meat cleaver, first accused her of putting battery acid in his drink and demanded she try and drink some of it. When she spat it back up, he took that as a sign that there was in fact acid in the gin, and swung the cleaver her way, and sliced through her left hand when she instinctively put it up in defense. Chester then dragged Jennifer to the couch and told her if she screamed, he would chop her head off. He began hacking at her arms with the cleaver, putting cigarettes out on her body, forcing her to put dirty laundry into her mouth, and even made her drink boiling water for four hours of insane, horrific torture. When Jennifer saw an opportunity to escape, she ran out of the apartment to get help. Chester chased her, hacking at her back, skull and face. In the end, Jennifer sustained injuries that required 9 hours of surgery and over 2000 stitches. She never regained full use of her left hand.

Chester plead guilty to attempted murder and accepted a plea deal of 10 years in prison and a $197,000 restitution.


April Sykes

April Sykes with her son, Jonah.

In November of 2005, April Sykes was 18 years old and had just finished work at a pizza shop in Paris, Tennessee. Her friend Brandon McMinn picked her up from work to go hang out with both him and their other friend, Virgil Samuels, who was in the backseat.

While they were driving Samuels suddenly wrapped his hands around Brandon’s neck and began choking him, ordering April to pull off into a dark, unlit, nearby cemetery. She obeyed and then immediately tried to run from the car, but Samuels caught her and dragged her back. He raped her multiple times, knocked her unconscious, tried to run her over with the car, stabbed her with a screwdriver, before dousing her in gasoline, shoving her into the trunk of the car and setting her on fire.

Somehow, April managed to get out of the car and was spotted by a passerby who immediately called 911. She was lifted to a nearby burn specialist and brought into the ER with burns over 65% of her body, 43% of which were 3rd degree and resulted in the amputation of her right arm and all the fingers on her left hand. She was not expected to make it through the night.

But April survived, and identified Samuels as her attacker. Samuels was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2007.

April became engaged to her finacé more than a decade after, and gave birth to a baby boy named Jonah.


Danielle MacGuire and Daniel Zapp

I Survived

Danielle MacGuire and Daniel Zapp were teenagers on their second date in January of 2000, just going for a walk near a river by Danielle’s home. While they were walking, a truck driven by William Babner pulled up and stopped near the couple. He let his Rottweiler jump around in the Susquehanna river making chit chat with the two kids before asking if they needed a ride home, and driving away. But then he turned around and blocked their path with his truck, and got out holding a gun.

Babner motioned for Danielle to get into the cab of the truck and made Daniel ride in the back with his dog. Daniel tried to use his cellphone to call for help, but there was no service. Meanwhile, Babner was trying to tell Danielle that he was kidnapping them for ransom but she adamantly did not believe him especially when they passed by her childhood home and Babner didn’t recognize it or her family who were standing on the porch.

Babner drove the teenagers 12 miles away to a remote, secluded spot by the river. He told them to walk down to the bank at gunpoint while they tried to pleading with him to not hurt them, saying they would do anything if he would let them go. Babner insisted that since they’d seen his face that just wasn’t possible. But after leading them back to the truck he looked at Danielle and chillingly said, “You’ll do anything?”

Babner proceeded to rape Danielle in the cab of the pickup, while Daniel was in the back. When Daniel looked up and saw what was happening, Babner yelled at him to “keep his fucking head down.”

Afterwards, he once again forced them to walk down to the bank of the river claiming the yes, he would in fact let them go. When Daniel turned around to see what Babner was doing, Babner shot him in the neck at point blank range. As she knelt down to say goodbye to Daniel convinced she was going to die, Babner shot Danielle in the face and leg.

The impact of the shots pushed Danielle in the river, and Babner dragged Daniel’s assumedly lifeless body into the river as well. Once he hit the icy water, Daniel instantly came to and knew exactly what had happened. Danielle was also completely conscious and aware of what had occurred, despite spitting out teeth and the bullet nearly severing her tongue. Both teenagers could see Babner watching them from the bank, so they both played dead and allowed the current to lead them away.

Eventually they watched him drive away and they swam towards shore. They were rescued by three men who drove them to safety. Two days later, Babner was arrested. Babner was convicted of kidnapping, rape, attempted murder and sentenced to 117-235 years.

Danielle got married after college and had a child. She and Daniel remain close friends to this day.


Maggie Maloy

Maggie Maloy at age 23.

Maggie Maloy was a 15-year-old sophomore at Galion High in Ohio during the fall of 1994. An avid runner and member of the track team, Maggie was out for a run when a leg cramp slowed her down and forced her to walk the rest of the way back to school pre-dawn on September 16th.

It was then that 21-year-old Christopher Vaughn snatched Maggie, dragging her into the woods nearby. Over the course of several hours, Vaughn beat and brutally raped Maggie. After he was finished Vaughn paced around her, debating out loud whether or not he should kill her. In the end, Vaughn decided that he couldn’t risk her identifying him and shot Maggie five times.

Maggie never lost consciousness the entire time and was found by police, covered in dirt, leaves, and blood that same day. The next day Vaughn was arrested. He was tried for aggravated assault, kidnapping, attempted murder, and rape. He was sentenced to up to 100 years in prison and was not eligible for parole until 2017.

Maggie spent almost two weeks in the hospital before going back to school and running track in the Spring. She later graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communication from Defiance College, and now works with victims of violent crimes.


Kristie Reed

Kristie (left) pictured with her mother.

On January 29, 1999, Paul Warner Powell murdered 16-year-old Stacie Reed in her Virginia home after discovering she had a black boyfriend. He first tried to rape her, but then stabbed her in the chest when she fought back. He then smoked a cigarette and poured himself a glass of iced tea while he waited for Kristie, Stacie’s 14-year-old sister, to come home.

When Kristie got home from school, Powell was waiting. He raped her, stabbed her in the stomach, strangled her, and then slashed her throat before leaving her for dead in the basement. When the girls’ stepfather came home to discover Stacie’s body, he immediately called 911 and went looking for Kristie. Kristie was found in time, survived, and was able to identify Powell as the murderer.

Powell was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death, but his death sentence was later thrown out by the Virginia Supreme Court due to insufficient evidence that he had in fact raped Stacie. The rape charge for Kristie was upheld, and he was instead given three consecutive life sentences. Believing he was safe from death row because of Double Jeopardy, Powell wrote a hate filled, abusive letter to the prosecuting attorney detailing what he exactly had done to Stacie, and how he had planned to kill the entire family. Using that letter, Powell was again indicted for the rape and murder of Stacie Reed, and officially sentenced to death in January of 2010.

He was executed by lethal injection the following March. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

About the author

Kendra Syrdal