Bridget Kelly, 26, was kidnapped by a stranger, robbed, raped, shot repeatedly and left for dead. When she learned the rape was considered too shameful to mention in media accounts, she wanted to tell her whole story. So she enlisted the help of a newspaper columnist — her own father.
For Michael Kelly, it may have been the hardest story he ever wrote. But together, they publicized her painful story to show other rape survivors they don't need to suffer in silence.
It started at 3 a.m. on a summer morning nearly two years ago when Bridget, a first-grade-teacher, was alone in her apartment in Killeen, Texas. A young man — a complete stranger — kicked in the door to her apartment, wielding a gun and demanding money. They headed for a nearby ATM, where she withdrew $200.
She hoped that would be the end of it, but her abductor forced her back to the car at gunpoint, and drove her farther away from her home.
She was frightened. She tried to talk with him, saying she was a teacher. She asked him, "Were there any stories that were special to you when you were a little boy?"
"I really loved Peter Rabbit," she said. "Do you know that one?"
"I was thinking maybe he's going to rape me; maybe he's going to kill me," Bridget told ABCNEWS' Charles Gibson.
A Will to Live
They arrived at an empty field beside a subdivision, where the man told her to take off her clothes. She obeyed, but then bolted and ran. The man quickly caught her, then told her to lie down.
"As I was getting down on the ground, I said in a calm voice, 'I'm going to give this to God. I'm giving this to God as an acknowledgement that this is so far beyond what I can handle.' And I got down on the ground and he raped me."
Afterward, the man told Bridget to get up, and indicated where he wanted her to stand. She was standing naked with her back to him when he fired his gun at her.
He missed — the bullet flew by her right ear only a couple feet from her head — and she screamed. Then he fired again. This time, the bullets struck her, and she fell to the ground.
He moved closer to her, and fired again into her back. "And then he started to walk away, I think," she said. "I believe that he turned back. And maybe it was an afterthought, or maybe it was just to be sure, just for good measure, he shot me one more time."
Bridget was left to die, but a remarkable determination and will to live took over. She somehow made it to nearby houses, winding up on the doorstep of a retired Army sergeant, Frank James.
"When I saw her condition and I seen the two bullet holes in — no, I didn't think she was going to make it," he said.
Bridget was rushed to the hospital for 6 ½ hours of emergency surgery. Doctors say if she had arrived 10 minutes later, she would not have survived. The shots miraculously missed Bridget's spine, heart and lungs, but not much else.
Michael Kelly learned of the attack on Bridget the next morning as he sat in office at the Omaha World-Herald in Nebraska. He had covered many rape cases in his career, but this time it was different — it was his daughter.
To Tell the Whole Story
Michael was at his daughter's side shortly after she regained consciousness. "Her normally very lively eyes were open, but they were lifeless. There was no sparkle. As if she had seen hell," he said.
With tubes down her throat, Bridget couldn't talk. But she made a motion as if she wanted to write. So he pulled out his notebook and gave her a pen.