I Survived: How I escaped a kidnapping

Victoria Ferraro Richards, a Pensacola native, bravely shares her story of how she  survived a kidnapping as a young adult and how it has impacted her life today.

Victoria Ferraro Richards, a Pensacola native, bravely shares her story of how she survived a kidnapping as a young adult and how it has impacted her life today.

By: Victoria Ferraro Richards

Life seemed pretty good for me back in 1998. I was working two jobs and I had a boyfriend. We decided to move in together right around beach time in Pensacola. I was bartending during the day and a secretary at night. The money was great.

One night I left my secretary job and headed to Cordova Mall to meet up with my boyfriend. We were going out later that night. As I turned into to mall parking lot,  I glanced in my mirror and saw a lot of cars streaming in after me to find parking. I pulled into a parking space right next to a street light.

I glanced again in my mirror and saw an old beat-up car behind me. I thought they were waiting for a parking spot. I got out of my brand new Mitsubishi and closed door.  But, before I got to the front of my car, someone came up behind me, grabbed me by the shoulders and told me to come with him.

I turned and landed a punch above his eye. All that did was piss him off. We struggled for a time that felt like forever. I was screaming, but no one would help me. There were people everywhere, but no one helped. I was on the ground with him on top of me. He was trying to remove my dress. In my mind, I thought, “Oh my God, he is going to rape me.”

Two guys and one girl walked by only a few feet away from me. He then stopped trying to rape me for an unknown reason and took all of my money. He continued hitting me. He pretty much kicked my butt.

All beat up, he dragged me to his car and moved it from the space it was parked in. My knees were bleeding and my bones were hanging out. After moving his car, he moved my car out of the space it was in. He then put his car where my car was parked. He dragged me back to my car and started to drive down Brent Lane. He said he wanted me to find him drugs. I told him I did not do drugs and did not know where to get them. In my mind, I was thinking that I know of people from the old neighborhood, but they would probably kill me for bringing someone like him to their house. So that thought quickly left my mind.

He back-handed me a few times. He had a gun and told me that he was going to take me into the woods, tie me up and kill me. I thought about jumping out of the car, but with my luck, I would get run over by another car passing by. I started trying to play on his sympathy saying that I had a baby at home and to please not leave my baby motherless. However,  I was not married yet nor did I have any children.   He was clearly on drugs.

But out of the blue, he turned to me and and told me he was sorry.  He gave me his full name.   Yeah, that’s right, his full name. He reeked of body odor.

All of a sudden my gas light came on and I told him it was stupid to kidnap someone and run out of gas on the highway. He listened and pulled into a gas station. He took 10 dollars out of what he took from me. At first, was he was going to let me pump and then he said, “I know you will try to run so you go pay and if you tell anyone in there I will kill you and everyone in there.”

So here I am, nose and lips bleeding, knees bleeding, dress ripped, going into this store. I held my hand out to the attendant and asked him to not make any kind of notion and that I had been kidnapped. Please help me. He told me to stall him and pushed a button under the counter. The kidnapper came into the store and acted like I was his wife. I looked at the cooler and grabbed a diet coke. I don’t drink diet anything, but it was the first thing I saw. I opened the can quickly, handed it to the kidnapper and told him I had to go to the bathroom. I was thinking I could climb out of the window. I locked myself in the bathroom and realized there were no windows. Just my luck!

The kidnapper tried to  to break the door down. I pulled the pipes from under the sink. Water was everywhere. All I knew was that I was not getting back in that car with him. I heard some voices tell me I could come out. The attendant told me that some “good ole boys” came in and gave the kidnapper a hard time and then the kidnapper left. With my car and my purse.   The police arrived shortly after that. I called my sister Tera and her husband and they came to the gas station. The police took my statement and I then gave them the kidnapper’s full name.They were shocked that the person gave me his name.

I was taken to the hospital to have my wounds cleaned. I had to take a rape test. It was standard even though I told them he did not rape me. Thank God! Not sure if I could live with that.

The next day, my boyfriend stopped by. Apparently he thought I had been raped and could not deal with it. He broke up with me. I was crushed. Then, when I went back to my night job, my boss had me take a lie detector’s test. There was a question that was asked “Do I know of anyone that has committed a crime?” I said yes, because I did. Growing up where we lived, just about everyone had been in some kind of trouble. For this, my boss fired me.

So, let’s recap, I was kidnapped, beat up, robbed of my car and my belongings, dumped by my boyfriend and now fired. It was a very low point in my life.

Fast forward a month. I am still making payments on the car that was stolen. I got a call from the investigators. The tag on my car was expired so the car was pulled over. When they ran the tag, it came back as stolen. The kidnapper was arrested. But, he was released from the Miami-Dade County jail due to overcrowding. But, he committed another robbery and was arrested again. This time, Escambia County had him extradited to Pensacola for trial. One year later, we finally went to trial.

My mama was with me as we walked in the courtroom. The judge asked the kidnapper if he had anything to say to me. He said “ Ms. Ferraro (my maiden name), I hope you can forgive me for what I have done and I am sorry.”.The judge asked me if I had anything to say. I stood up and walked down to the podium. My mama was shooting daggers from her eyes and giving him that look that she gives when she is wanting to whip someone’s butt. I looked at the kidnapper and told him that he ruined my life. The  judge said that he would give him the maximum sentence of 10 years in jail and 10 years probation. This was before kidnapping was a life sentence.   He was also ordered to pay restitution.

Over the years, I kept up with him and where he was. After serving 5 years, he was released for good behavior. He then become absconder. Governor Bush had implemented a new absconder unit. I called them and gave then the kidnapper’s last address, which I looked up online. The absconder unit picked him up and he had to serve the remaining 5 years of his sentence and the 10 years probation.

I still keep track of this person. I never went to any kind of counseling. I really should have, but did not. This still has an impact on my life. I have since trained in martial arts and self-defense. I have trained others on self defense and taught them how to live smart by paying attention to their surroundings, and how to not panic when in any kind of offending situation.

The struggle is still a reality for me, but helping others helps me recover.