Raped at 8 And Left For Dead, Jennifer Schuett Raises Her Voice
For about twenty years a victim, Jennifer Schuett, 27, has held on to every memory of the night she was abducted from her bedroom, raped and left for dead.
It was August 10, 1990. Schuett was 8 years old and lived alone with her mother in the first floor of an apartment complex in Dickinson, Texas. The bedroom windows faced the parking lot
Not able to find a suspect yet, investigators now have DNA testing that may change that. Normally CNN does not identify the victims of sexual assualts, but Schuett wants to go public with her story and have her name identified to increase the chances of finding her attacker.
"It's not about me anymore," she explained. "It's about all the little girls that go to sleep at night. I know there are so many girls out there who have been raped and hurt. You have to fight back."
"I remember everything; I've always wanted to remember everything, so I can find the person that did this," Schuett told CNN during a phone interview. "If I had blocked this out of my memory, the investigation wouldn't have come this far. I'm a fighter."
Schuett explains what happened that night, saying she was alone in her bed when a man came creeping in through the window. She remembers waking up in a stranger's arms as he carried her across a dark parking lot.
"When I opened my eyes, his face was the first thing I saw and he covered my face and mouth," she said. "He ran with me to his car. He told me he was an undercover cop and that he knew my family. He seemed calm -- not nervous, not aggressive."
After leaving the parking lot, the kidnapper drove through the streets of Dickinson, Texas, pulling into a mechanic shop next to her elementary school.
"Watch the moon. The moon will change colors and that is when your mom will come to get you," she recalled him saying. "Oh, it looks like she is not coming."
Then Schuett said nervously that her kidnapper drove her to an overgrown field next to the school and raped her.
"He had a knife to my throat and touched my face and offered me Reese's pieces," she said. "I was scared but I knew I couldn't be fast enough to get away. Cars would drive by but I couldn't get away to get help."
She believes she passed out. "I woke up to him dragging me by my ankles," she said. "I felt thorns ripping the skin off my back. I would see him turn to look at me and I would play dead."
She passed out again, and awoke at daybreak. "I remember feeling dew around me and I couldn't figure out why when I screamed I couldn't hear myself," said Schuett.
She lay naked on top of an ant hill with her throat slashed from ear to ear, and her voice box torn.
Much later, she said, "I heard children playing hide and seek. That is when one of the kids tripped over my foot," said Schuett.
Schuett had been found at 6 p.m. on a hot August day and had been laying in that field for nearly 12 hours, when found she was rushed to a hospital in critical condition.
"Three days after the attack, I started giving a description. The doctors told me I would never be able to talk again, but I proved them all wrong," said Schuett. She believes she got her voice back so she could tell her story.
"I never wanted to play the victim role. I wanted to be a strong survivor," she said.
But the attack left its mark. "For the first two years, I had nightmares and was scared," she said. "But I never wanted sympathy. ... If I had given up, he would have won, and I wanted to show him: 'You didn't win.' "
Shuettt said she is now "on a manhunt."
Dickinson police Detective Tim Cromie and Houston FBI Special Agent Richard Rennison are the lead investigators on the case.
Rennison said "this is the only one that I can think of that the victim has suffered some traumatic injuries and survived, the main reason the CARD team picked this case was because she was alive. In cases of child abduction it is rare that the child is recovered alive. Frequently you recover a body and most times you never find them."
The investigators have found evidence collected 19 years ago, which can be retested. It included the underwear and pajamas Schuett was wearing, with a mans underwear and T-shirt, which was found in the same field where Schuett was left for dead. The clothing had been tested in 1990, but the sample needed to be larger to get a good enough result, now techniques allow DNA to be isolated from a single cell.
Once they get back the DNA results -- "any time now," Schuett said -- they will run them through the FBI's criminal database and see if they get a match
"Someone might remember something about that night," Schuett said. "Dickinson is a really small community. Everybody knows everybody. I know someone in town knows something."