Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

David Parker Ray: The Toy Box Killer

Truth or Consequences

The young woman running down the dirt road was completely naked and moving as fast as she could. Stones in the road must have hurt her bare feet, but she believed she was running for her life. No matter what it took, Cynthia V. was bent on escape.

Map of New Mexico with Elephant Butte locator
Map of New Mexico with Elephant Butte

It was late afternoon on March 22, 1999, but not excessively cold as she fled through the New Mexico desert near the Sierra Caballo Mountains. A woman driving by saw Cynthia screaming, locked her car door and sped away. Cynthia did not realize how she looked, with blood streaming from a head wound, a metal collar padlocked around her neck, and a chain dangling behind. A man in a second car swerved to avoid her and also drove away. Her plight felt hopeless. While she came upon small homes and trailers along the road, they seemed locked up and she thought she dare not take the time to stop and knock, just in case they were behind her.

Book cover: Cries in the Desert
Book cover: Cries in the

Then she spotted a well-kept mobile home, writes John Glatt in Cries in the Desert, and to her great relief, the door was open. She bounded over, rushed inside, slammed the door shut, and begged the surprised woman watching television to help her.

The homeowner hurried to help when she saw how seriously Cynthia was hurt. Blood caked her hair, and there were blood droplets on her face and terrible bruises all over her body. As Cynthia locked the door, the homeowner called 911 and then retrieved a robe for the naked girl. Cynthia, only 22, was stunned to learn that she was about 150 miles south of where she lived in Albuquerque. She was in Elephant Butte, a resort town of approximately 2,000 residents that sat above an 18-mile-long, 36,000-acre reservoir.

Two police officers responded to the call, whereupon Cynthia cried hysterically, "I'm alive! I'm alive!" She tried to calm herself, although it was difficult, and told them she'd been kidnapped by a man who, with a woman, had held her prisoner in a trailer nearby. For three days they had tortured her with a bizarre collection of sexual and medical instruments. She'd only just managed to get away.

The male abductor had left the trailer not long ago, charging the woman with looking after Cynthia, but when she had gone to another room, Cynthia had grabbed the set of keys that hung just within reach and unlocked the chain that fastened her to a pole. Then she spotted a phone and attempted to dial 911, but the woman returned and threw a lamp at her, hitting her on the head. Cynthia fell down while the woman hung up the phone to cut off the call, but she quickly recovered. A box of items that spilled over contained an ice pick the couple had used on her, so she grabbed it to defend herself. The woman backed off, giving Cynthia the brief opportunity to rush for the door. She fled without her clothing, certain if she stayed a moment longer she'd never emerge.

Cynthia told the officers the location of the trailer, but, in fact, another team was already on it. A 911 call had just come in from that location, 513 Bass Road, but had been interrupted. The dispatcher believed that a struggle had taken place, so police had gone to check it out.

Cynthia was taken to a hospital, and she reported that her abductors had used her as a sex slave and probably had intended to kill her. She had the bruises and burn marks from electrical torture on her body to prove it, which hospital personnel documented with photographs. The details she spilled out were almost too gruesome to believe, but there was one sure way to verify her account: conduct a search. The local police had no idea just then how big this investigation would become, how disturbing, or how frustrating.

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