‘Like looking in the eyes of Satan’

Assault survivor says fighting her intruder was instinctual

Photo By Tom Angel

Jenna* had noticed that someone was living in a travel trailer two lots over from her family’s home on Durham’s Goodspeed Street. She could see a shadow from the living room, and from the bedroom she shared with her husband of nine years, as the man moved around inside. She remembers thinking how weird, or sad, it was that someone would live in the beat-up, old trailer not more than 14 feet in length.

She never imagined that man would scar her body, sexually assault her and almost kill her while her 3-year-old son cried for her from behind a locked door.

Jenna, her husband, Mark, and their four children had spent just 11 months in the house on Goodspeed, a long road that runs parallel to The Midway and railway tracks. They’d scraped together the money for the brand-new manufactured home and then waited for months for it to be constructed and delivered. There was no question that they would live in Durham, a spread-out farming community of a few thousand people just five minutes’ drive from Chico. The close-knit town, with only a handful of shops and restaurants, was where Jenna had grown up, having moved with her family from Redding when she was 2 years old.

At 31, Jenna is smart, attractive and athletic. Her blond hair recalls hours in swimming pools where she coached swim teams. And she’s tough—so tough that her bravery amazes even the experienced police and prosecutors who would come to help her and, later, feel inspired by her.

She talks about her ordeal matter-of-factly, revealing fear only when she speaks of her children and how they almost lost her on a damp October morning six months ago.

“A lot of people get bitter and they just shut down,” Jenna said. “When it’s over, I feel like I should be reaching out to other women who have been through things like this.” She wants to speak out at church, on college campuses and wherever else she feels her story might help others. “I think it would be more like a ministry-type thing—you can heal from it.

“I know I didn’t do anything wrong.”

After more time goes by, Jenna said, she might be willing to have her name and face in the media, but not now. It’s too soon, and too scary.

Jenna was battered and nearly unrecognizable, but just as resolute, on Oct. 20, 2004, the first time she told her terrifying story. She lay in a bed at Enloe Medical Center, her long hair caked with still-wet blood (her bathwater would run pink for days), her face swollen from kicks and her neck bearing so many slash marks that they blended together as one wound.

As shown in a DVD recording of the interview, her words were muffled from behind a cut lip, and although she asked for water for her dry mouth, Jenna had to wait until a sexual assault exam was completed. She had trouble catching her breath.

Following is Jenna’s story of survival, constructed from reporter interviews, court testimony and two detailed, taped accounts she gave police.

It was her testimony that on April 22 would help lead a Butte County jury to convict Richard Massie on felony charges involving sexual assault and torture. Each felony charge, with enhancements, carries a sentence of 25 years to life. If the verdict is affirmed at sentencing May 24, Massie will not be eligible for parole for at least 32 years.

It was about 7:45 on a Wednesday morning. Jenna’s mother had come by earlier to take her two older boys, ages 6 and 5, to school, and her husband had just left to take their teenaged daughter, Mark’s by a previous relationship, to school in Chico.

Jenna was alone with 3-year-old Carter. She ate some cereal, put the bowl in the sink and turned on cartoons for the boy to watch while she took a quick shower. Carter would later tell police that he was watching Miffy and Friends when the “bad man” came into his house.

Jenna had forgotten to lock the door.

“I turned off the water and I opened the shower door to grab my towel, and when I did that I saw a reflection in the mirror of a man in red and black,” Jenna told police. She smelled cigarette smoke and heard what she thought were coins clinking together—a sound that still puts her on edge.

“I just stood there for a minute trying to figure out what to do.” She began to dry herself with the towel, pretending that she hadn’t seen the stranger.

Time seemed to stand still. The man on the other side of the door was Richard Massie.

Massie was also a longtime Durham resident, but the two had never met. He was older, and Jenna had attended Chico High School. Massie had a long criminal record, with convictions for charges including burglary, possession of drug paraphernalia and resisting an officer. He’d recently moved into the travel trailer outside his estranged wife’s house.

As Jenna recounted the attack, she remembered Massie looking at her purposefully. “He was after me. I truly believe that,” she said.

The family’s bathroom is off of the master bedroom, which also has a small walk-in closet. Jenna had left the doors ajar so her son could come in if he needed her. There was no lock on the bathroom door. “As I pushed the door closed, [Massie] pulled it closed,” she said.

Her heart pounding, Jenna reached for a two-piece workout swimsuit she’d left hanging on the doorknob. Bracing her 130 pounds against the door, she tugged the swimsuit onto her still-damp body. She grabbed a pair of jeans she’d laid out and struggled to get those on, too.

She prayed.

Hoping for a moment that the man was only looking to steal, “I told him to take whatever he wanted and leave,” Jenna said. “I screamed, hoping the neighbors would be in their back yard.”

The door opened. The man’s left arm was raised, and he grasped what looked like a long kitchen knife.

“This was my biggest fear in life, so I always thought, ‘What would I do?’ It was like a scene in an ugly movie,” Jenna said.

Her instincts and logic told her to fight back—hard.

Jenna reached up and grabbed the knife blade, blocking its descent with her bare hand, and somewhere it registered in her mind that it was duller than she’d expected.

“I just started fighting with him,” she said. “He pulled me into my closet. I just kept fighting and fighting.” Jenna grasped at the door jamb. She bit him on the shoulder, or, as the exercise physiology grad put it, “right where his deltoid muscle is.”

“I remember trying to stick my fingers in his eyes,” Jenna said, recalling something her husband had told her about self-defense. “But I couldn’t get enough pressure to really hurt him.”

Massie threw her to the floor and put the knife on a shelf in the closet.

As Jenna kicked against him, the 180-pound, 5-foot, 11-inch man wrestled off her pants and then her swimsuit bottoms. It was then that he sexually assaulted her using his hands and mouth and uttered the only words she’d hear him speak: “Oh, yeah.”

Then, she said, “I heard him unzip his pants.”

Deputy District Attorney Kelly Maloy spent hours preparing for the Massie case, even though it seemed there was no way he could elude conviction. “This is really a very straightforward case,” Maloy said the week before the trial began April 20. “It should not go to trial.”

Photo By Tom Angel

So she fought harder.

“I kept telling him, ‘Don’t kill me,’ and it was like he got angry because I wouldn’t submit and shut up.”

Amazingly, Massie seemed not to remember where he placed the knife. The man threw clothes and other belongings around the closet.

“At one point it dawned on me that I saw his face and I’m never getting out of this house alive,” she said.

“I knew my son was in the other room and I didn’t want to die,” said Jenna, who pictured her 3-year-old finding her body and spending the rest of the day alone in the house.

The boy came to the locked bedroom door and hung on the doorknob, trying to open it. “He was shaking the bedroom door and crying, ‘Mommy, Mommy, Mommy.’

“I almost told him to call 9-1-1, because I’d been working on that with him,” Jenna said. “But I was so afraid that if I said those words the man was going to go out there and stab that little boy to death.”

Massie seemed not to notice the child, who eventually went back to the living room.

The intruder began to choke Jenna until she couldn’t breathe. “I guess he thought I had passed out because he let go of my throat,” she said. “I almost tried to ‘play dead,’ but I knew he was looking for that knife.”

As the two had struggled, framed family photos still waiting to be unpacked from the recent move had shattered. Jenna heard the “more intentional” sound of breaking glass, and the next thing she knew Massie was gripping a dagger-like shard. “He just kept trying to cut my throat.” She felt the first two swipes to her neck, but after that, “It was almost a numb feeling.” A shard of glass broke off in her neck. Another piece sliced a groove in her wedding band.

Unbelievably, the attack continued. And Jenna continued to fight.

Massie alternated searching for the knife with kicking the young mother and stomping her on the face. At one point, as the man’s heavy boot came down on her head, Jenna heard her back pop.

The harder she fought, the angrier Massie got. “It was also most like he was so frustrated that he hadn’t succeeded in killing me.”

Jenna prayed harder, this time aloud. “I kept telling him, ‘Jesus loves you. He’ll forgive you for anything if you just ask him.'” It made her feel stronger but only enraged Massie further.

She had seen that Massie had closed and locked the bedroom door. When Massie stopped (either to catch his breath or find the knife, Jenna didn’t know which), she ran to it and got close enough to touch the handle before the man caught her and dragged her back.

Grabbing Jenna by the hair, Massie forced her into the bathroom.

“He started using the heel of his boot to kick me in the face,” said Jenna, whose cheek bore a footprint after the attack. “He left me there and I think he went to go look for the knife again in the closet.”

Then came the hardest decision ever, the one that had locals reading the daily newspaper, talking about the attack and wondering what they would do if faced with the same, horrible choice.

“I said, ‘God, you’ve got to take care of my son.'”

Leaving two bloody handprints on the bathtub, Jenna pushed out the screen to the small bathroom window. As it popped out, she tumbled headfirst four feet onto the wet ground.

“I thought that the only way I could save either of us was to get out,” she said.

Spitting out blood and her back stinging from what she would later learn was a fractured vertebra, Jenna scaled a fence and made her way down the long driveway about 150 feet to the street, crossed it and stood on the sidewalk.

Remembering that people are unlikely to respond to a call of “help,” she instead yelled “fire.”

She saw the headlights of a car coming down the street, but didn’t know if it was help or an accomplice of Massie’s. When she saw the driver was a woman, Jenna flagged the car down. She yelled, “Help me, I’ve been attacked, call 9-1-1.”

Apparently unsure what to do faced with a woman covered in blood and clad only in a bathing suit top, the driver didn’t open the car but rather leaned on her horn until people emerged from a nearby house.

“I said, ‘Help my baby boy,'” Jenna remembered, her voice breaking. The family took her into their home and covered her with a blanket. A woman applied pressure to her neck wounds. Someone called police.

The boy was found in the driveway of the Durham home, playing in mud puddles. After wandering the house and seeing blood in the closet, he’d put on his shoes and gone outside to look for his mom.

Not knowing how terrible she looked, Jenna asked that her son be brought into the neighbor’s house so she could see that he was all right.

Before long, Jenna would come face-to-face with another strong woman who would share her goal: putting away Richard Massie and preventing him from attacking anyone else.

Kelly Maloy handles special-victims’ cases for the Butte County District Attorney’s Office.

Stern-faced, slender and prone to crisp, modest suits in court, Maloy evokes the image of someone who studied hard in law school, got the assignments in on time and sought extra credit. She tries to anticipate what the defense might do from every possible angle. She’s fiercely protective of victims in cases she’s trying.

Waiting for a verdict to come back, even on a case that seems open-and-shut, can keep her up at night. She has to keep busy, Maloy says, or she’ll “go crazy.”

She’s exactly the type of person you’d want in your corner if victimized in a violent crime.

“I think it surprised the hell out of him that you fought back,” Maloy told Jenna the week before the trial. “I don’t know what would have happened to you if you hadn’t.”

From inside her home, which had no window coverings, Jenna could see the figure of Richard Massie moving around the tiny travel trailer where he lived outside his estranged wife’s house about 25 yards from Jenna’s house. Deputy District Attorney Kelly Maloy believes Massie was watching Jenna, waiting for a time when she would be home alone.

Photo By Tom Angel

Maloy said she doesn’t like to “prep” her witnesses much, if at all.

“I don’t give witnesses a script, and I certainly don’t tell them what to say. I tell them to tell the truth and testify to your memory.”

The defendant tried to plea to lesser charges, but the D.A.'s Office wouldn’t settle for a deal in which Massie could see daylight as early as seven years from now.

As District Attorney Mike Ramsey put it, Massie wanted to “roll the dice” and claim his right to a jury trial. “There is no such thing as an open-and-shut case.”

In court, Maloy wanted to play the DVD taken of Jenna in the hospital as part of her opening statement, but Judge James O’Reilley agreed with Public Defender Robert Radcliffe that the DVD would be “inflammatory” and, because of still photographs already admitted into evidence, redundant. What the jury saw was not Jenna’s injuries at their worst.

After meeting Jenna and learning more and more about what she went through, Maloy petitioned the court to add the torture charge.

“I try to put my arm out there and separate myself from the victim,” Maloy said, but Jenna’s courage amazed her. “I think I’m pretty tough. But I find myself going home and watching lots of comedy and hugging my kids a lot. It affects me, but I try not to let it.”

The week before the trial, as she met with Maloy, Jenna traced the lines still prominent on her neck. The top one, the longest and deepest, is still “kind of numb,” and she doesn’t like to touch it. Her doctors tell her the scars will fade over time, and cosmetic surgery, remarkably, probably won’t be necessary. “I’m not self-conscious about it,” she said.

Jenna looks through police photos of her injuries almost as if she’s looking at a stranger. It’s as if she can’t believe that’s her, face bruised and swollen, cuts from head to toe and her neck wrapped in gauze. A staple closed a gash in her thigh. Glass was imbedded in skin all over her body. And she can’t remember whether it was a kick or a punch that left her lip fat and blood-crusted.

A stay-at-home mom and sometimes swim coach, Jenna had just started to build a photography business. Now, because of the injury to her back, she struggles to hold the heavy camera steady and has only recently begun taking appointments again.

“My back hurts on almost a daily basis,” she said. Even picking up her kids is painful. Bailing out the window, she suffered a compression fracture to her T-4 vertebra, which shortened her height by half an inch but could have easily paralyzed her. She wore a stiff brace from her neck to her waist for weeks.

For Jenna, the trial would mean an end to a long six months of waiting to see what would happen to her attacker. She was nervous about testifying, about seeing Massie in court and about the chance that he could somehow evade punishment.

In the days leading up to the trial, Jenna had one unanswered question: Why?

“Has Massie given any reason at all?” she asked Maloy. “I’m just wondering what his thought process was.”

During the attack, she said, “It was like looking in the eyes of Satan. There was so much hatred there.”

Throughout the three-day trial, so many of Jenna’s friends, family members and church parishioners showed up in support that they filled more than half of the courtroom. These were the people who had visited Jenna in the hospital, baked casseroles, prayed, offered shelter, gathered donations and cleaned up the house where the attack had taken place. Most of them stayed at the courthouse until the verdict was read.

Addressing the jury of seven men and five women, Maloy sounded both practiced and sincere. She raised her hand in a dramatic stabbing motion as she described the attack. She’s certain that Massie watched Jenna, stalked her, “lusted for her.”

She showed the jury Jenna’s bathing suit top, Massie’s muddied boots and, over defense objections, the knife, which Massie had brought with him to the house.

Massie stared forward, his hair cropped back from the wild curls he had during the attack. His graying hair and cragged face made him look older than his 37 years. His moustache had morphed into a full beard, and he wore an ill-fitting suit that covered his shackled hands. Shackles are unusual when a defendant appears for his trial, but the day before Massie had attacked a female guard, the district attorney said.

Jenna arrived at the courthouse wearing fashionable jeans and a blue, zippered sweater. She’d cut her wavy hair to her shoulders. Outside the courtroom, her family described Jenna as unusually modest, even as a teen. And now she was going to have to tell a room full of people about how her body was violated by a man sitting just a few yards away from her.

Jenna steeled her gaze and, asked to identify the man who violated and scarred her, pointed at Massie. “He’s sitting right over there.” Massie didn’t move a muscle.

The prosecution called a series of witnesses, most of them police and medical professionals.

Police witnesses described how, using what Maloy described to the jury as “good, old-fashioned police work,” it was learned that Massie had been seen walking by Jenna’s house that morning. (Jenna later picked him out of a “six-pack” of photos.)

Following the attack, sheriff’s deputies got a report of a trespasser in a rice field and suspected they could have their man. After smelling a discarded backpack, a dog named Brit handled by Joshua Jackson of the Sheriff’s Office alerted to a waterway, and there deputies found Massie—submerged in water, very cold and bearing a fresh bite mark on his shoulder.

Taken to the same hospital where Jenna was being treated, Massie confessed to police that he entered the house with a knife and sexually assaulted Jenna. But he said he was going to leave after watching the woman shower, and that as he fought with Jenna she got hold of his knife. It all just kind of happened, he seemed to be saying.

Dr. Kent Nachtigal, the surgeon on call when Jenna was brought to Enloe, testified to injuries that were undeniably deliberate.

He described “multiple stab wounds” to her neck, including two lacerations as long as 3 inches, penetrating muscle and ending very near Jenna’s carotid artery and her jugular vein. “It went right down to the artery but did not hit it,” he said. She also had cuts to her lip, her face and her leg. The doctor performed exploratory surgery and then closed the jagged wounds. There were 11 neck lacerations in all.

Jenna also had multiple bruises and wounds to her fingertips, hands, wrists and feet.

Massie’s court-appointed attorney put on little defense early in the trial. He didn’t make an opening statement and called no witnesses.

The only possible way he could go, court-watchers speculated, would be to argue that Massie was insane or on drugs at the time of the attack. Earlier, some of Massie’s family members, who didn’t seem to be present at the trial, had suggested he got hold of some “bad” methamphetamine that could have caused him to act out of character.

But no psychologist came forward to say Massie was insane, and testimony indicated that there was very little meth in his system.

Radcliffe asked a handful of questions of Jenna, mostly about her children’s money. In closing statements, Radcliffe acknowledged that Massie is guilty of “a myriad of things, terrible things,” but urged the jury to “not be swept away by emotion.” The charges, he argued, were not justified by the facts of the case. “Mr. Massie has clearly done wrong,” Radcliffe said, asserting that the prosecution failed to prove neither the “intent” that would justify the enhancements, nor the torture charge.

In her closing, Maloy suggested to the jury that, “He’s neither insane nor crazy, because if he was you would have heard testimony to that effect.

“He wasn’t out of his mind on some bad drugs on a bad trip,” she continued. “Sometimes, there are just mean, evil people. That’s what the defendant is. He is a mean, evil person.”

On the last day of his trial for sexual assault and torture, Richard Massie entered the courtroom mumbling to himself, his head twitching oddly to one side. Two deputies guarded Massie, and as the verdict was read five of them kept close watch on him.

Photo By Tom Angel

In the end, the jury took less than an hour to return with guilty verdicts on all counts. The jury members had listened intently to the testimony, a couple of them visibly tearing up as Jenna described the attack. Two of the three alternate jurors, though dismissed from service, stayed and waited for the verdict.

Count one was sexual penetration by a foreign object (the defendant’s fingers) by means of force or violence, enhanced because the crime took place during the commission of a burglary and, second, because he used a “dangerous and deadly weapon.”

Count two was torture: pain and suffering for any sadistic purpose.

As the court clerk read the succession of guilty verdicts, Jenna finally wept, clutching her husband’s hand as her friends and family surrounded her.

On the way out of the courthouse, the jury foreperson said Maloy made their decision easy by building such a strong case.

Even the judge felt moved to comment on Jenna’s strength, calling her “a unique individual.”

With the end of the trial, Jenna put one element of her ordeal behind her.

But she was still healing, and continues to do so.

Hope Aguirre, executive director of Rape Crisis Intervention, said there’s no way to know how an assault victim should react when attacked. “We can’t tell you to fight, we can’t tell you not to. Every situation is different. You have to do whatever [works] at that moment.”

One thing is for certain, Aguirre said. “It is about violence. It is about power and control. It has nothing to do with sex.”

She said the effects of a sexual assault last long after the initial attack is over. Triggers like odors and sounds are part of the post-traumatic-stress disorder that is common of survivors of an attack.

“It changes everything about you: trust issues and things like that,” Aguirre said. “People will judge, and say, ‘It’s been six months, why are still talking about that?’ But you can’t just ‘let it go.'”

That Jenna wants to speak out will be helpful to both her and the women who hear her. Victims of sexual assault “need a lot of validation,” Aguirre said. “By hearing someone talk about it who has gone through it, it affects that person much more.”

Jenna is fortunate in that she has a large support system in her family, friends and church.

Several of them went to visit Jenna at Enloe Medical Center and came away in tears.

“I think that was the hardest part. I had a lot of friends come see me in the hospital and they’d break down,” she said. As the trial neared, one of Jenna’s biggest concerns was that her own mom would have to hear the gruesome testimony. (It was Jenna’s mom who told the two older boys that a man came into the house and beat her up, but she was in the hospital and OK.)

Jenna’s husband, a handsome, soft-spoken man, was working at his job in the automotive business when he got a call from a friend at the Sheriff’s Office telling him his wife had been attacked. He immediately went into “survival mode,” finding his son and then rushing to the hospital only to be told his wife wasn’t there. (For her own safety, the hospital was treating her as a confidential patient.) It seems to be Mark’s religious faith that tempers the rage he feels toward the man who victimized his wife. For weeks after the attack, the family heard from people who wanted to enact vigilante justice on the defendant.

Jenna said that while her belief in God helped her get through the ordeal, she doesn’t believe she survived because she was “super-spiritual.”

She also found comfort in the biblical teaching that someone can harm your body, but not your spirit.

“I’m proud that I fought back, but I don’t feel like a hero or anything,” said Jenna, who feels a little embarrassed when women come up to her and tell her how amazed they are by her.

At first, Jenna’s friends and family were upset to hear that the D.A.'s Office would not charge Massie with attempted murder.

But Ramsey, who called Jenna “strong” and “remarkable,” explained that an attempted murder case would be much harder to prove, because prosecutors would have to show Massie specifically intended to kill Jenna. Also, a conviction would bring a sentence of 15 years to life, with Massie eligible for parole in seven years. “There was no reason for us to go with the more difficult crime with the lesser penalty.”

During the day, Jenna can talk with a confident, steady voice about what happened to her. It’s when it gets dark—strange, she realizes, since the attack took place in the morning—that the fear kicks in.

“I haven’t had any nightmares. Flashbacks, I have had.” She imagines she sees the man’s face peeking around her bedroom door, and at night it doesn’t seem irrational to think that Massie, or someone who believes he is innocent, could come for her. “I’m scared to death.” She checks behind doors, in the bathrooms, in the kids’ rooms. She looks over her shoulder. Sometimes, when she comes home to an empty house, she’ll call her husband at work and talk to him on the cell phone until she feels safe.

And she worries about her children, particularly her 3-year-old, a towheaded, chatty boy who loves Rescue Rangers and sometimes insists on wearing his PJs outside of the house.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the boy’s counselor told Carter’s parents he’s doing “fantastic.” But Jenna has overheard him talking about the attack with friends. “He’ll give you lots of drama,” she said. He says he “saw the bad man and the bad man didn’t touch him. But if he had to see Massie [in court], I think he’d really be scared.

“At first, he asked, ‘Why did you leave me?'” Jenna said. “We had to explain that I didn’t leave him; I went to get help.”

The other children have also been affected. “Their daily conversation is, ‘What would happen if a bad man breaks into our house?'”

Maloy urges Jenna to go to Massie’s parole hearings, even if they’re decades in the future. She also wants Jenna to install a security system in her home and get a watchdog.

After the attack, friends from Jenna’s church, Calvary Chapel of Chico, went to the house to pack up the family’s belongings.

Jenna knew she didn’t want to live in the Durham house again, and it’s in the process of being sold. But she did go back, once. “I didn’t want my last memory to be about diving out that bathroom window,” she said. Her 3-year-old asks, ‘Do I ever have to go to the bloody house again?”

The family first stayed with relatives—10 in one house—and are now in a rental in Chico.

Only recently did she stay home alone overnight. The first time her husband had to go out of town, Jenna’s mom and friend came over to stay with her. The second time, “I just locked the doors and prayed and prayed and prayed.”

Relatives bought her a shotgun, and she’s about to start lessons on how to use it.

Only once has she taken a shower with no one else in the house.

Jenna plans to speak at Massie’s sentencing later this month and hopes that will put an end to that part of the experience.

“It seems very surreal. It almost feels like it was just a bad dream,” she said. “It’s still amazing that I even lived through it.”

* The names of all the family members have been changed to protect the survivor’s identity .