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."
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.
In the exam room, a volunteer read her Scripture and forgave her for her sins. Heck forcefully told the nurse that the volunteer was no longer needed. Her upper lip was stitched up. Semen and other genetic material were taken from her body for analysis. Her favorite blue biking shorts and white T-shirt, bloodied, were bagged for evidence.
Police then took her, still dressed in a paper gown, back to the crime scene.
Finally, she went home to her apartment, where a detective interviewed her again. By nightfall, she was ready for a distraction, so two friends took her to see a movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
"I just sat there with ice on my face," she said. "I totally spaced out."
Police did not know it at the time, but Heck's rapist had walked away from a road gang in West Virginia. Terry Leon McDonald, who had been serving time on burglary and sexual assault charges, hid in the woods for a few hours. That night he broke into a woman's home in Taylor County, W.Va., sexually assaulted the woman while her daughter called 911, and stole the family's red Datsun.
McDonald sped off in no particular direction, not knowing where he was or where he was headed. The next day, he spotted Heck. Then he moved on to Ohio, and then Florida, where he was arrested in a routine traffic stop and extradited to West Virginia to serve a 48-year sentence.
He was convicted of sexually assaulting the West Virginia woman; police had no idea he had raped anyone else. Back then, no national database of DNA existed, so there was no way for states to easily match their DNA samples with the genetic material of convicted felons.
So McDonald sat in West Virginia's Mount Olive Correctional Complex, while his victim drew sketches of his face in the middle of sleepless nights in Northern Virginia.
Few people at Osbourn Park High School knew that the slender, athletic teacher who rode her bike to school had been raped. Her students did not realize she would get dizzy at random moments, panicking for a few seconds while lecturing them or walking into a crowded hallway.
"It was like I was choking on my breath. I would just hold on to the lab bench and let it go by," she said. She met with a therapist and asked her, "Can't I just laugh my way through this?" She was told she couldn't. "I had to talk my way through it and cry, and I didn't want to do that."
Figuring that hearing other women's experiences would be helpful -- she was one of 79 people raped that year in the Prince William area, and one of more than 300 across Northern Virginia -- Heck tried group therapy. She dropped out after one session.
"Group therapy made me realize that that there are women who carry this their whole life, 20 years after they were raped," Heck said. "I couldn't make the choice to make it last that long."
In January 1991, about the time the country began to wage war in the Persian Gulf, she was tested for the AIDS virus.
"I just wanted to get the results. It was frustrating just waiting," she said. Two weeks later, they came back negative. Now she could focus on her next hurdle: regaining her confidence.
She began taking self-defense classes and affixed a piece of paper to her refrigerator in her apartment with the words: STOP. NO. PUNCH. Toward the end of her second year of teaching, she went on a date with a fellow Osbourn Park teacher, and he asked about the words on her fridge. She told him she had been raped.
"I know many women may blame themselves or feel dirty and nasty. I didn't feel that way," she said. "There are all kinds of emotions that come out of trauma. It's all legitimate. You feel what you feel."
Tom Heck said the rape did not make her any less attractive to him. When he moved that summer to Asheville to start a mountain biking tour business, she followed him, and the couple married two years later, in 1993.
Anne Heck trained to become an advocate at Asheville's rape crisis center to help new victims. She also started a self-defense class and traveled around the western part of the state, instructing hundreds of women how to talk back confidently when confronted.
But lingering emotions remained trapped inside her, occasionally locking up her pelvis so she couldn't walk. Asheville, cradled by the Blue Ridge Mountains, is home to a bevy of alternative healers, so she sampled almost everything: deep-tissue massages, a traditional Chinese breathing exercise called qigong, acupuncture and a class on how to apply body oils.
In March 1999, she gave birth to Joseph, the first of the couple's two children. He knows somebody hurt his mother, but she will wait until he gets older to fill in the details.
In late 2003, McDonald's DNA sample was entered into the national database. A few months later, there was a match.
The DNA was the same genetic material as the semen found on Heck, one of nearly 12,500 "cold hits" nationally involving convicted offenders, the FBI said.
Heck wanted her name used for this report -- still a rarity for rape victims -- because she does not want to be a faceless victim. Prosecutors have told her that McDonald, who pleaded guilty to rape and abduction charges in August, probably will spend the rest of his life in prison.
The prospect of seeing him again Friday, after more than 14 years, does not faze her, she said.
"I have no emotional attachment to him. I was with him for only a bit. We just crossed paths," she said. "I have a great life, and it hasn't just started because they caught the guy. The truth is, that's been a wonderful journey."
Down in her basement in Asheville, surrounded by rakes, electrical cords and power tools, a testament to her strength from that day hangs from the ceiling: her red Trek 400 road bike, its thin tires freshly smudged with dirt.
"I know many women may blame themselves or feel dirty and nasty. I didn't feel that way," says Anne Heck.