Stabbed up to 20 times and left for dead in an Eastern Shore tomato field last Friday night, Patrick Donahoe crawled for 13 hours to summon help for himself and his wounded 3-year-old son, counting cherry trees so he could tell authorities where to find the boy, according to Donahoe's wife and law enforcement officials.
Fearing that he would die along the way, Donahoe scratched the name of Dean Edward Crowell four times in the dirt, according to Michelle Donahoe. At times he lapsed into unconsciousness, she said.
By Saturday morning, Donahoe had covered the one-mile distance to the nearest house. Finding no one at home, he cut through a screen door with a hoe, crawled inside and telephoned for an ambulance. Then he called his wife.
"I said, 'Patrick?' " she recalled yesterday. "He said, 'Yeah, I'm going to the hospital.' I asked him where the baby was and he didn't want to answer me. Then he started crying and said the baby's throat had been cut."
When rescue workers arrived moments later, they found Donahoe with several stab wounds in the chest, back and head, including one wound to the left temple that partially pierced his skull, according to a doctor who later examined him.
Based on directions from Donahoe, the rescue workers found his son, Patrick Jr., lying unconscious in an isolated field a short time later. The boy had been stabbed four times in the back and twice in the chest, including one wound that pierced his lung, according to his mother.
Both father and son survived the ordeal in rural Accomack County, Va., where residents were still marveling yesterday at their remarkable escape and trying to raise money to cover their hospital bills.
Arrested and charged with abduction, robbery, attempted murder and grand larceny was 25-year-old poultry worker Dean Edward Crowell, according to a spokeswoman for the Accomack County Sheriff's Department.
Accomack Commonwealth's Attorney Gary Agar declined to elaborate yesterday on the circumstances surrounding Crowell's arrest, saying the matter was still under investigation. But he confirmed the essential details of the account sketched by Michelle Donahoe.
The ordeal began Friday evening when Donahoe, a 25-year-old crabber and lifelong resident of the Eastern Shore, left his home in Lee Mont with his son, Michelle Donahoe said. The two were headed for a laundromat in Onancock, about 10 miles away, where Michelle Donahoe works.
Driving down U.S. 13, Donahoe spotted Crowell, whom Donahoe has known for about seven years, his wife said. Crowell was on his way to visit his girlfriend, Michelle Donahoe said, and her husband offered to go out of his way to give him a lift.
Michelle Donahoe said she has not asked her husband what prompted the attack, which, she said, occurred in a field near the girlfriend's house. "I don't know if it was in the car or not," she said.
"He saw him going for the baby and he tried to stop him but he couldn't," she said. "He told me that he just lay there and he heard the car go off and he got up and started going towards this house."
It was an all-night trip. "He said he tried to stand but he couldn't stand so he crawled most of the way," Michelle Donahoe said. Making his way through a cherry orchard, "he counted every cherry tree along the way from where the baby was so they would know where to find the baby," she said.
And he tried to leave clues for the police. "He told me that he wrote the . . . name four times in the dirt," she said.
Meanwhile, Michelle Donahoe was frantic. "I knew something was wrong because he doesn't keep the baby out all night," she said. On Saturday morning, she tried without success to get someone to fill in for her at the laundromat so she could wait at home.
She was at work when the call from her husband came. "I went hysterical," she said. "I presumed that he thought the baby was dead."
Before being taken away in an ambulance, Donahoe told the rescue workers about the cherry trees and where to find his son, his wife said. Father and son were taken to Northampton-Accomack Memorial Hospital in Nassawadox, where Donahoe was treated for collapsed lungs.
He and his son were taken to hospitals in Norfolk on Sunday. Donahoe was listed in satisfactory condition yesterday, according to a spokesman at Norfolk General Hospital.
Patrick Jr. was released from another hospital earlier this week. "He's doing great health-wise," his mother said. "But it's going to take a long time."
Accomack residents have taken up a collection for the family, which has no health insurance.