A 77-year-old Northeast Washington woman was following her weekly routine Thursday when she drove to a Giant supermarket in Prince George's County, parked her car in an uncrowded section of the lot and set off to do her grocery shopping.
She was hardly out of her car however when a knife-wielding young man abducted her, took her to an alley where he raped her, then locked the woman in the trunk of her car and drove around for four hours before setting her free.
"I did a lot of praying in that car, praying that I'd get off with my life," the woman said yesterday. "You know we often hear of these things happening and you always say it couldn't happen to me."
A day after the seven-hour ordeal, the woman, who lives alone, said she has begun to recover with the support of the neighborhood friends and expects to return to the familiar daily events of her life.
"Of course I'll have to be more careful but you can't live your life not going out," she said.
The woman's ordeal began about 4 p.m. Wednesday as she closed her car door and headed toward the Giant supermarket on Queen's Chapel Road in Mount Rainier.
"This man looms up with a big knife in his hand," she said, "It scared the living daylights out of me."
The man, who appeared to be in his 20s, ordered her to get back into her car and sit still, she said. "He told me not to get near the door. I said, 'You can have the car, you can have the money if you let me go.' But he refused and said I had to go with him."
The man then drove for about an hour, through areas the woman did not recognize.
"I was scared to death," the woman said yesterday. "I said, 'Why are you doing this to me? He said he needed a car to go a certain place then he would let me go, but I didn't believe him."
Eventually, the man pulled the car into a "shaggy-looking alley" near a large warehouse, she said. He then told the woman to remove her clothes and said he raped her in the car.
"Then he made me get out of the car with nothing on and made me get into the trunk. He threw my clothes in, too. I thought I wouldn't get out alive, that's all I thought," she said.
After locking her in the trunk, the man drove around for about four hours, stopping to talk to people, and picking up others.
"I heard men's voices, women's voices. At one point I think he filled the car with kids. I was afraid to make any noise," she said. Carefully and silently, as the car screeched around corners and jolted to periodic halts, the woman struggled into her cloths and prayed for an end to her abduction.
"I was freezing and bruised from head to toe when he finally stopped the car," she said. A few seconds later the man opened the trunk, threw the keys at her and said, "you can get out now but don't hurry." He fled on foot, the woman said.
"He needn't have worried about me getting out too fast. I could hardly move I was so stiff," she said.
As she emerged from the trunk, dishelved and dazed, the woman found herself in a desolate parking lot behind a large apartment building, she said.
"I'm not supposed to drive at night, but I just got in the car to try to find my way back home," she said. With the help of an obliging cab driver, whom she had stopped to ask directions, the woman arrived home around 11 p.m., seven hours after she had set out for the market.
On hand to greet her were a half dozen friends who, familiar with her schedule and worried at her evening absence, had called police and reported her missing.
"I guess I was lucky to have my friends and the police around. I had enough to keep me going that night so I never had to think about what had happened to me," she said.
"It was terrible but I feel I have a lot to be thankful for. I have my life and my friends."
Yesterday, D.C. and Prince George's County police said they had no firm suspects in the case.