Jeannette Tamayo never knew she was being watched as she walked home alone from her school bus stop. A few minutes after getting home from school, she answered a knock at the door. "There was a man there that I had never seen before," Jeannette recounts. "He asked me a couple of questions and then a little bit later I started closing the door. He pushed his way in and I got scared. He took me to my brother's room."
Jeannette was assaulted, handcuffed, bound and put inside of a box. Just then, Jeannette's mom and brother arrived home. The attacker brutally beat them both and left with Jeannette, taking her captive. He repeatedly tortured her over a series of days.
Amazingly this 9-year-old girl made a brave decision to outsmart her attacker, David Montiel Cruz, so that, she says, he wouldn't be able to "hurt another child the same way he hurt me."
Jeannette figured out a way to slip out of her handcuffs. She grabbed some trinkets that had Cruz's fingerprints on them and then put her handcuffs back on. She then told Cruz that she had asthma and a contagious disease. He released her, but, Jeannette says, "He said, 'If you tell anyone about me or something I'm going to come back and kill your family and then kill you.'"
Police were shocked not only in the way that Jeannette was freed, but by the amount of evidence she'd collected. "When I started taking all the evidence out of my pocket, their mouths just dropped," she says. Jeannette led investigators to her kidnapper's front door. The judge called this one of the most horrific crimes he had ever seen and sentenced David Montiel Cruz to more than 100 years in prison.
While knowing she prevailed over Cruz empowers her, frightening memories still haunt Jeannette three years later. "When I see the stories in the news about other missing children, I start to cry," she says. "I prayed for Jessica and Shasta."