Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Harvey Robinson: Adolescent Serial Killer

Failed Assault

Denise Sam-Cali

Denise Sam-Cali was home alone on June 28 because John was on a business trip.  It was possible that he would be home some time during the night, he had told her, but he was not sure.  She had come in late after visiting her aunt down the street, so she was ready to go right to bed.  Although she had practiced with the new gun until she was able to hold it steady, she still did not feel very safe.  Two incidents of violence against women in her neighborhood that month, along with their own break-in, made Sam-Cali nervous.  Opening the bedroom window to let out some of the hot air that had collected during the day, she undressed and crawled under the sheets.

But she was restless and unable to sleep.  She lay in bed listening to the night noises outside and hoping that John would come home.  If he were there, she would feel much better.  Suddenly she caught her breath.  She held still and listened.  She was sure she'd heard something inside the house that sounded like crackling paper.  She strained to hear better, and then sat up. "Who's there?" she shouted, hoping whoever it was believed he had entered an empty house, like before, and that he would be startled and decide to just leave.  But the place was silent.  No sound of a departing burglar.  Aware that if it were John, he'd have made his presence known, her stomach lurched with dread.  She knew she was not alone.

Deciding she'd be safer with a neighbor, Sam-Cali jumped out of bed, grabbed a comforter to cover herself, and ran down the hall.  To her horror, she spotted a man emerging from a walk-in closet with a knife in his hand.  Racing away from him, she went for the door, but he reached her and grabbed her arm.  He tried to stab her in the face, cutting her lip, but she knocked the knife away and struggled to get out.  He still had a firm grip on her arm, but she managed to break free, get outside and run.  On the lawn, the man caught her by the hair and threw her to the ground.  She tried to scream but nothing more than a gurgle came from her.  This intruder was adept at pinning a woman while he got ready to rape her, and as he assaulted her, he strangled her.  She later recalled being punched four times in the face, but not much else.  Sam-Cali bit her attacker and cried out, but he choked her until she went unconscious. 

Then a neighbor who heard the commotion turned on an outside floodlight, which frightened the attacker off.  Sam-Cali regained consciousness and managed to crawl back into her home and call 911.  The police arrived and took her to the hospital.  It was clear from her injuries that she would need hospitalization and possibly plastic surgery on her cut lip.  She let the nurses process her with a rape kit for evidence, although she was not even certain she'd been raped.  They attended to her bruised face and the clear strangulation marks on her neck, and she was aware how lucky she was to be alive.  Her assailant had certainly intended otherwise.  The police soon found the knife he had grabbed in the Calis' kitchen; it was wrapped in a napkin and left behind on the floor of their home.  For them, life was going to take a dramatic turn.


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