ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- Anne Heck was fixing some lunch in her stone and clapboard home here on a mid-January afternoon, tucked away in a forest of white pine trees, when she received a phone call from a Northern Virginia police officer.
"Listen, I know this is coming out of the blue, but I've got some important news for you," Detective Samson O. Newsome said. "I just wanted to let you know we got the guy."
Heck said, "I have a great life, and it hasn't just started because they caught the guy," who was identified by DNA.
(John Fletcher For The Washington Post)
At first, Heck was silent, and the Prince William County detective himself stopped breathing for several moments. "Hey, this is a lot. Are you okay?"
Heck, a mother of two and a Web site developer, insisted she was fine. Her mind drifted back to that morning 14 years ago, when she was raped by a stranger along a gravelly road in the Washington suburbs, near Haymarket.
She paced around her living room and thought about the friends who helped her get through that first year. She wanted to find them, to share the news. Suddenly, the bottled-up emotion poured out, but it was a cathartic "happy cry."
The search for her assailant had grown so cold that she had stopped thinking about the man with the crooked teeth. But her mind raced to an opportunity she knew she could not pass up: confronting her rapist at his sentencing, which will take place Friday in a Prince William courtroom.
Her name was Anne Reeder then, and she had just finished her first year as a chemistry teacher at Osbourn Park High School in Manassas.
That morning, a Thursday, the 26-year-old had set out from her one-bedroom Manassas apartment for a bakery a few miles away. She hopped on her red Trek 400 road bike and headed out on Route 234 past the Manassas National Battlefield Park. She rode her bike everywhere -- for the exercise, the meditative solitude, the feel of the wind on her face.
About 8:30 a.m., she turned onto Mountain Road toward Route 15 near Haymarket. The road went from paved to gravelly, so she began pushing her bike. A man in a red car asked for directions, and she pulled out her map to help him out.
"He hit me in the mouth . . . twisted my arm behind my back and forced me into the woods," she recalled. "I didn't remember any pain. I just kept saying to myself, 'I am going to live through this.' "
She didn't scream; no one was around. In the woods, the man in the faded jeans and white T-shirt ordered her to take off her clothes. She kept repeating in her head: I am going to live through this. "I wasn't angry. I needed to focus. It was like I was on automatic pilot, and I knew I was going to get out," she said. "I didn't feel capable of fighting this guy."
When it was over, the rapist fled.
"I was a bit stunned. I was completely out of my body and not breathing," she said. She pulled on her clothes and ran to the road to see if she could catch his license plate number but got only a faint impression.
A passerby drove her to the nearest fire and rescue station, and paramedics took her to a hospital. In the emergency room, she was told that it would be "wise" to take a morning-after pill and undergo a gynecological exam. She also was advised to have an HIV test -- in six months, when the results would be conclusive.