Reporter Once Plotted to Murder Man Who Raped Him at 7

"Stalking the Bogeyman" in development as an Off-Broadway play.

March 27, 2013, 5:14 PM

March 28, 2013— -- David Holthouse said he had the murder meticulously planned. He bought a Beretta 9 mm with a silencer and had the serial number removed, then tested it in the Arizona desert. He said he stalked the intended victim's Colorado home and came within a hair's breadth of killing the man who brutally raped him as a 7-year-old.

"This wasn't just a revenge fantasy, though it's tempting to lie about it now," said Holthouse, now 41 and working as a documentary filmmaker and investigative reporter in Alaska. "If I had gone through with it, I most certainly would have been caught."

Instead, Holthouse said, he confronted his childhood assailant face-to face and found not the "bogeyman" who had haunted his psyche for 25 years but a "frightened, damaged man" begging for his forgiveness.

And were it not for a serendipitous discovery of that awful truth by his mother, Holthouse swears he, too, would have been a dead man.

Holthouse first went public with a story in 2004 in the weekly Denver Westword. Later, in 2011, he told about his ordeal on National Public Radio's "This American Life."

Now, the story of his sexual assault and the shame and venomous anger that followed has been adapted for the stage in "Stalking the Bogeyman," which is in production for a February 2014 opening Off Broadway.

"I just happened to be listening to a 'This American Life' podcast and I stopped in my tracks, kind of paralyzed," said writer and director Markus Potter ("A Perfect Future"), artistic director of NewYorkRep. "Immediately, I thought this story needs to be told. It needs to reach a wider audience."

Holthouse's story is a powerful one, as he describes in detail about "coming to grips with the killer inside of me."

He was in the second grade in Alaska when the attack occurred. The alleged rapist was 10 years older and a star high school football player, the son of his parents' close friends.

One night in 1978, Holthouse said, when the grownups were "drinking wine and playing board games," the 17-year-old whisked young David away to his room under the guise of teaching him some karate moves and closed the door.

"I didn't know what was going on, but I knew it was bad, so I started crying, and he told me to shut up and then started chasing me around the room, waving the sword," he wrote. "He put the blade to my throat and backed me into a corner, where I dropped into a crouch and cowered. Then, he told me to take off my pants.

"It wasn't Michael Jackson gently introducing my hand to his magical giraffe, and it wasn't anything like a Catholic priest masturbating an altar boy. I was seven, and it was violent, sick, pedophiliac rape. ... I no longer believed in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy, but from that night on, I had no such doubts about the Bogeyman."

Out of fear and shame, Holthouse never spoke about it, though he claimed there were other attempts to abuse him.

"Part of it was I didn't really have a firm concept of what had happened," he told "Nobody ever talked to me about sex or rape. I don't think it was a function of the era. Most 7-year-olds don't know what rape is. I didn't have the words to apply to it. ... It was easier to keep quiet."

He wrote that he didn't want to upset his parents: "I didn't want their memories of my childhood tarnished with this scum."

Nearly half of all victims of sexual assault are under the age of 18, according to statistics from the Department of Justice. Of those, 10 percent are boys. Other studies have shown rates as high as one in six boys. An alarming 93 percent of them have been abused by someone they know -- a friend or family member.

"There is no standard reaction or response to sexual abuse," said Jennifer Marsh, vice president of victim services at the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. "It can range from anger to denial to a sense of hopelessness. Some of the time we see that anger projected inward.

"We hear folks every day who are angry and talk about hurting their perpetrators," she said. "Usually, it's more a figure of speech than a plan."

As a teen, Holthouse researched rape, learned about the "vicious cycle" of abuse and feared that he, too, might turn into pedophile.

"I felt like a werewolf had bitten me and it was only a matter of time before the full moon rose," he wrote.

He said that if those desires surfaced, he would kill himself and make it look like a mountaineering accident.

After college, Holthouse moved to Colorado, but the memory of the rape "festered." When his mother mentioned that the alleged rapist was also living in Denver with his wife and children, he imagined the man was continuing to assault children, perhaps even his own.

Holthouse considered going to the police or sending letters to the man's relatives, but he worried his own parents would find out. So "obsessed" with stopping him, he devised a plan.

Holthouse said he stalked the man's suburban home, learning his daily patterns. He decided the murder would take place at an isolated baseball field after he stalked him on a late-night walk.

He wrote that he would shoot his assailant below the waist, watch him "writhe like a poisoned cockroach," then kick him in the stomach and shoot him three times in the head. Because he had never told anyone about the sexual assault, Holthouse reasoned, "there was nothing in recent history to connect me to him," and he would get away with the crime.

But in 2003, about 10 days after he returned from buying the gun in Arizona, Holthouse got a telephone call from his crying mother. In cleaning out his bedroom cabinets, she had found a diary from when he was 11 and read the horrific account of the rape.

Holthouse's mother sent an anonymous letter to the man's parents, telling them their son was a molester and to keep him away from children. She later called to tell them she never wanted to see them again.

Now that his secret was out, Holthouse called off the murder.

But in 2004, he sent two letters to his assailant asking for a face-to-face meeting or at least a phone call: "Remember me?"

"Simply ignoring this letter is not going to work," he wrote. "If I don't hear from you by Friday late afternoon, I'll start calling your house, and then knocking on your front door. I want to be perfectly clear here: I am not threatening you with any physical harm, and I am not hinting at blackmail. I don't want your blood or your money, just one uncomfortable conversation."

Holthouse had begun to write the story about the assault for the Westword and, by May, that piece was complete. But 48 hours from publication, the man called and agreed to a meeting, ultimately changing the ending.

The nervous confrontation was short, according to Holthouse's account in Westword. The alleged rapist apologized: "I've thought 100 times about contacting you in the last 20 years to tell you that, and I just never had the courage to pick up the phone. I'm sorry for the pain I've caused you and my parents and your parents."

After that, the bogeyman seemed diminished.

Holthouse said the man told him the alleged rape was only once and never to another child, and he had since told his wife and parents.

"I doubt that is true," Holthouse said. "He tried to repeat the crime against me for the next two years of my childhood. He would have assaulted me again, given the opportunity -- I believe that. I think as a society, we turn rapists into monsters and he had turned into a monster in my mind. Doing that is a risk because most rapists lead normal lives."

When the story appeared in print, the alleged assailant retained legal counsel and did not refute Holthouse's telling of events, according to the Associated Press.

The Alaska lawyer for the man Holthouse alleged raped him did not immediately return a call from

After the story was aired by "This American Life," director Potter tracked Holthouse down.

"He liked that the story was being told on stage, with the ability to transform time and space easily," said Potter.

In adapting the story, the director said he was inspired by the Laramie Project, a play that chronicles a year in the Wyoming town after Matthew Shepherd was beaten and left to die on a fence for being gay. He plans to have question-and-answer sessions after each performance and provide an avenue for victims to seek help.

RAINN hopes to collaborate with producers to raise awareness and help survivors talk about recovery.

"We know this is going to move and affect and be a very important story for many people, including countless victims who will be hearing that there is hope," said Potter.

As for Holthouse, now married with a 2-year-old son, he is reflective about the courage he mustered to write his story, now a play-in-the-making.

"I was expecting this sort of lightning-bolt catharsis," he said. "I thought I'd suddenly feel a lot better. That didn't happen. Since then, I've realized that, at least for me, there's no such thing as getting over it. All I can do is get better with it."

Victims of sexual abuse can get help by going to the RAINN online hotline.

Go to Stalking the Bogeyman to learn more about the project.

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