Something happened when I was 12 that I don't talk about too much. I've mentioned it at library talks when discussing the Amy Mihaljevic case but I left it out of the book because I didn't want people thinking that it was the reason I got interested in her mystery. The truth is, when this happened, I was already very interested in Amy's case (and spending time looking for her killer in area malls).
Here's what happened. When I was 12, a man tried to abduct me from the Metroparks. This happened at the park on Memphis Road, by the kiddie park. At the time, my mother was living with my aunt in an apartment across the street. One day (I think this was the fall of 1990, though it could have been as late as early summer, 1991) I walked across the road to explore the park.
I noticed a well-dressed man with dark hair standing by the bathrooms there, touching himself. He looked a little like Leonard Nimoy, I thought. I walked on, down a path, into the woods. The man followed. I started to jog. He jogged after. I began to run. He ran, too.
At the time, the path wound through the woods away from the road. There was no where to go and no one else around. So I ran off the path, through the woods and found myself on a railroad track. I started running down the track, back toward the road. But the man was really close now, and gaining. And the rail line was now running between two sheer walls of rock. There was no where to go and he would definitely catch up with me.
I did the only thing I could. I prayed and scaled the rock wall, knowing if I slipped even once, he'd have me. But I didn't slip. And when I reached the top, I looked down. He was standing just below me, a look of pure hatred on his face. I gave him the finger and then ran back to the apartments.
By the time the rangers got there, he was gone.
I've been trying to find the report of the incident through the Metroparks but they say they don't have it. I'm hoping by sharing this story here someone might see it and remember coming to speak to me that day.
When I told this story to a ranger who stopped by a book signing, he said I should look into Vern Hartenburg. And damn if he doesn't look just like the guy who chased me when I was 12. Oh, and that was the exact same location he was arrested for sexual misconduct, in 2011.
Vern, for his part, says he doesn't remember me, though he readily admits to be a sex addict. He also admits he went crazy around the time Amy was abducted. Says it was because he was sexually abused as a kid. I don't know if it's all just coincidence or if there's something more to this thing. But Hartenburg is a sick man and what we've learned so far is only the tip of the iceberg.