Jan. 21, 2013 — -- A Michigan 14-year-old is being hailed as a hero by his community for helping to hide a rape victim in his house while her alleged attacker pounded on the doors, threatening to kill.
James Persyn III was at home in Shepherd, Mich., watching his siblings Acelin, 11, and Angus, 2, on Wednesday night while their father drove a few miles away to pick up his fiancee from work.
Suddenly, the children said they heard banging on the door and a woman screaming, "Let me in! Let me in!"
James opened the door and a panicked woman rushed into the kitchen. She shouted that someone had kidnapped her and was trying to kill her. She told the children they needed to hide.
The teen remembered that his father had told him that, in case of emergency, he should get everyone into one of the bathrooms -- the only room in the house with no windows.
James said he got his siblings and the frantic woman to climb into the bathtub. He told his sister to call 911 while he retrieved the hunting knife he had just gotten for Christmas.
Meanwhile, James Persyn Jr., the father, had arrived at his fiancee's family's business, J&M Produce and Nursery, to pick her up. His cellphone rang. It was his "frantic" son on the other end.
Persyn told ABCNews.com that his son said something to the effect of, "There's a man outside the house and [you] need to get home as soon as possible."
Persyn took off for home, telling his fiancee to keep James on the phone.
As the children and women hid in the bathtub, they did not know that the alleged attacker, Eric Ramsey, had poured gasoline on the house, lit a match and taken off.
As Persyn approached the house, he hoped he would be able to surprise the intruder.
"I cut my lights off within a tenth of a mile, hoping to catch this person outside," Persyn said. He didn't find the intruder, but instead found "the bottom of my house aglow."
Persyn put out the fire with the side of his body and his feet.
"I was yelling for my kids. I was yelling for the intruder," he said. The doors were all locked and he had left his keys back at the store. He tried to break a window to get inside, not knowing if the intruder was in the house.
Police arrived moments later and assumed Persyn was the intruder when they saw him trying get into the house. He told them that he was the father and that his children were in the house.
The children finally opened the door when they spotted police and Persyn met them in the living room, thinking the ordeal was over.
"My daughter was quite hysterical," he said. "My son, you could tell he was upset and scared but he handled it very well."
But then the children started talking about the woman with them. Authorities quickly found her. She was injured, but "amazingly calm," Persyn said.
"I don't know if she was still in shock or relieved that she was safe," he said. Paramedics cared for the woman and police questioned her before she was taken to the hospital. Authorities also interviewed the children.
It was soon determined that the attacker was not on the premises, but that meant he was on the loose.
Persyn said that he and his family camped out in the living room that night, but no one could sleep knowing that the attacker was on the lam.