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Hellish Escape Unfolds In Oregon

At 2 a.m. on March 5, 2010, the horse pastures in Aumsville, Ore., were muddy and especially cold. Jessica, 24, ran across them as if her life depended on every step her boots would take her. The damp mud took well to her clothes. She ran toward the porch light ahead like a jackrabbit on the run from a coyote. Her right eye bulged towards the light in panic. Her left eye, however, was swollen shut and as dark as the sky above her. Her face had also been slashed. She kept looking back, but all she could spot were the silhouettes of the Doug Firs from which she had emerged. She heard several horses near the farmhouse. Then she cringed at the guttural screams of her best friend, Ashley, who was calling out her name. As the light on the porch shined brighter on Jessica, Ashley’s whimpers faded into a hushed echo.

Soft-Eyed 'Cop' Is Easy To Trust

Two hours earlier, Jessica and Ashley had been laughing together as they walked out of Roseland Theater in Portland’s Old Town district. Rapper Snoop Dogg had been the headliner, and now the women were off to see some friends. There was no way they could have known a man had been spying on them all evening and coveted each step they took down the sidewalk. Cops say his name was Paul Evans Winklebleck. The 42-year-old had a reddish-brown goatee and was wearing camouflage fatigues. The words “Combative for God” were inked on the back of his neck. On their way back to the car, Ashley and Jessica window shopped and took photos -- Ashley with her cell phone and Jessica with her camera. Neither carried a purse, so they slipped their mobile gear back in their knee-high boots as they approached the parking lot. Ashley pulled out the keys to her black Ford sedan, which had become a welcome sight for their sore legs. Then, cops say they heard a man’s voice, speaking with authority. They turned around and found themselves facing the man with the red goatee. Through his scruffy outward appearance, the women said they could see nothing but compassion in his dark brown eyes. According to the women, Winklebleck told them he was a “spotter” for the Portland Police Department, and his team had been watching them all night. They were setting up a DUI-sting operation, and he warned them that Ashley was their target. Ashley and Jessica told him they didn’t have much to drink but considered taking a cab 2 miles to their apartment anyway. They were ready to leave the car in the lot. Winklebleck allegedly told them they’d probably get towed by morning and extended an invitation to drive them home in Ashley’s car. The girls recalled that as Winklebleck explained how the sting was working against them, their skepticism waned when they noticed two Portland police cruisers parked outside the lot. The women thought, “Had police really been watching them? How would the police have known what they had been doing all evening if they weren’t under surveillance?” Inside the car, cops say Winklebeck navigated Portland’s one-way streets towards the women’s apartment. Jessica was in the back seat and Ashley rode shotgun.

As they chatted about the concert, Jessica was playing with her camera and took a snapshot of Winklebeck in the driver’s seat before sliding the camera back into her boot. Then Winklebleck said he had a problem with his phone. Jessica handed him her phone. He fidgeted with it for a moment and slid it between his legs. He turned to Ashley, who was checking her text messages, and asked to borrow hers instead because he couldn’t get Jessica’s to work. Ashley tossed him the phone. Suddenly, those eyes weren’t so compassionate anymore.

Nowhere To Go

According to the women, Winklebleck turned onto Interstate 5 and accelerated to 100 mph. The women said they then went into a state of confusion. Ashley reached for the phone between his legs, but Winklebleck allegedly pulled out a buck-knife that looked sharp enough to gut a deer. Ashley said he honed in on her face while he unlocked the blade. She took a deep silent breath and looked out the window as if she should have known. In that moment, there were no words between captor and captives until, the victims say, Winklebleck broke the silence. They said he intended to take them south and that he wasn’t going to hurt them. The high-speed driving went on for another 60 miles. Cops say Winklebleck opened a pill bottle and ordered Ashley to take several. Then, he pulled off the freeway at the Detroit Lake exit. Jessica had camped in the area before and knew development was thin. There were no other cars in sight. Lighting was dismal. The pavement below the tires of the sedan soon turned to gravel. The ladies said Winklebleck stopped the car, turned the ignition off and left the headlights on.

Cops: Valiant Women Overpower Knife-Wielding Captor

All three of them got out of the car. For the first few seconds, the only sounds came from the crickets and the crackle of the car’s engine coming to a settle. The women looked at each other one last time as if to muster up some semblance of courage, and then it was on. Jessica said she punched Winklebleck in the face then hustled into the driver’s seat. Ashley got in the passenger seat. There was one problem though -- Winklebleck still had the key and the knife in his hand. Then, Winklebleck allegedly pulled Jessica out of the car with her hair and yanked a handful of it out of her scalp as he dragged her across the gravel. Ashley rushed out of the car and started beating on him. He wrapped his hands around Ashley’s throat, lifted her off the ground and stared in her eyes. Ashley started screaming and, looking over at her friend, told Jessica to run for her life. Jessica told Ashley she couldn’t leave her, but Ashley insisted. Jessica hoofed towards a single porch-light she could see a mile across the muddy field. She winced at the sounds of Ashley’s screams. She wondered if Ashley was dead. The farmhouse was getting closer. The horses were flustered for a moment as Jessica scrambled past them in the corral to get to the farmhouse. She pounded on the front door with the only energy she had left. A man in a bathrobe answered and in a panic, Jessica screamed, “Help me! Someone’s trying to kill us! He’s killing my friend out there right now! Oh God!” Ten minutes later, the horses were startled once again. Jessica looked over and wondered if the abductor had made his way to the farmhouse to kill them all. She was relieved to see Ashley appear beyond the corral. She had managed to escape. As Jessica locked eyes with her best friend, the two women were finally able to exhale.
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