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Conway teen held captive for nine months said she never lost her will to survive

  • Abigail Hernandez, right, sits with family and friends as she listens to her mother Zenya Hernandez, center, talk with N.H. Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young, right, prior to the arraignment of Nathaniel Kibby, 34, of Gorham, N.H. at Conway District Court in Conway, N.H., Tuesday, July 29, 2014. Kibby was charged with kidnapping Abigail Hernandez nine months ago was ordered held on 1 million bail after a brief court appearance Tuesday. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, Pool) Charles Krupa

  • FILE-Conway, N.H. police released this photo of 14-year-old Abigail Hernandez of North Conway, N.H. Thursday Oct. 10, 2013. Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young said missing teenager Abigail Hernandez wrote a letter to her mother Zenya Hernandez postmarked Oct. 23 and was received by her mother Nov. 6.(AP Photo/Conway Police department/FILE)Abigail Hernandez was 14 in this picture before she went missing on her way home from school in October. Uncredited

  • Nathaniel Kibby is escorted into court for a hearing Wednesday Aug. 6, 2014, is Ossipee, N.H. Kibby is charged with kidnapping 14-year-old Abigail Hernandez as she walked home from high school. Abigail, now 15, returned home last month. (AP Photo/Conway Daily Sun, Jamie Gemmiti, Pool)Nathaniel Kibby is escorted into court for a hearing yesterday is Ossipee. Kibby is charged with kidnapping 14-year-old Abigail Hernandez as she walked home from high school. Abigail, now 15, returned home last month. Jamie Gemmiti

  • Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young speaks during a news conference Friday Dec. 6, 2013 in Concord, N.H. Young said missing teenager Abigail Hernandez wrote a letter to her mother Zenya postmarked Oct. 23 and was received by her mother Nov. 6. (AP Photo/Jim Cole) Jim Cole

  • A sign posted on the storefront window of the Naked Bohemian boutique is shown July 22, 2014, in Conway, shortly after Hernandez was reunited with her family. AP



Monitor staff
Saturday, September 08, 2018

Handcuffed with a jacket over her head, Abigail “Abby” Hernandez could hear the squeezing and popping of her cellphone as her captor attempted to break it into pieces. The man who had taken her at gunpoint and threatened to slit her throat in Conway in October 2013 knew authorities could use the phone’s GPS to locate them – and he wasn’t going to take the risk.

Hernandez, who detailed her story in an exclusive interview on ABC’s 20/20 Friday night, said she tried to peek around the jacket and out the car window, but Nathaniel Kibby caught her. Within seconds, a stun gun was on her thigh.

Once the car stopped, Hernandez said Kibby led her into a long, dark room where she saw an assortment of tools and a “Don’t Tread On Me” flag hanging on the wall. In that room, Kibby placed tape over her eyes, then a T-shirt over her head and, finally, a motorcycle helmet over that before raping her.

She said the rape was the first of repeated sexual abuse she would suffer at Kibby’s hands during the nine months he held her captive at his Gorham mobile home.

“I did not want to die,” said Hernandez, now 19, while speaking five years after the horrific ordeal to ABC’s Deborah Roberts. “I never wanted to end my prayers because I didn’t want God to leave me.”

Hernandez recalled how Kibby allowed her to watch a press conference held by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office who had opened a missing persons investigation into her mysterious disappearance after she never made it home from school. She said when she saw her mother, Zenya Hernandez, pleading for her return, she cried for the first time while in captivity.

Kibby had allowed her to write a letter home, but the first draft ended up in the trash after she tried to imprint into the paper with her fingernail secret messages, including “help.” Kibby punished Hernandez for the incident, but allowed her to try again, and that letter ultimately made it to her family.

Deputy Attorney General Jane Young said during the hour-long ABC special that authorities were able to confirm Hernandez had written the letter after finding traces of her DNA on the paper, but how she came to write it puzzled them.

Investigators would hold onto the letter for a month before releasing it to the public out of concern that Hernandez may have written it without her captor’s knowledge – and they didn’t want to cause her greater harm, Young said.

Hernandez said the entire time she was in captivity she tried to remain hopeful. She wanted to live and she thought maybe Kibby would free her.

One night, she said Kibby fell asleep next to her, and when she awoke she saw his face for the first time. She said she immediately covered her eyes because she did not want him to punish her having seen too much.

But, in time, Kibby revealed more of himself and his past to Hernandez, including the time he spent in confinement as a juvenile. He also confirmed his identity after she found his name penned on a cook book.

“Part of how I gained his trust is I went along with everything he wanted to do,” Hernandez said.

That included helping him make counterfeit money, which ultimately led to his undoing and her return home.

Kibby had manufactured the counterfeit bills and used them to pay prostitutes, one of whom tried to use the fake money to pay for items at Walmart and was arrested. The woman, Lauren Munday, said she immediately called Kibby and demanded answers.

“I said, ‘Whatever you’re making in your basement, you better clean it up right now,’ ” Munday said, warning Kibby that the police were on their way.

On the evening of July 20, 2014, Kibby dropped Hernandez off on a quiet, rural road.

“I remember looking up and laughing and being so happy,” she recalled, adding, “I just walked home.”

Video surveillance footage taken from a camera positioned above the family home’s front entrance captures Hernandez’s return.

Upon opening the front door, she called to her mother.

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” Zenya Hernandez told 20/20.

Abby Hernandez said her mother had changed during the five months she was gone.

“I could see stress, months of stress in her face, and it kind of killed me a little bit,” she said.

In an interview by phone Friday, Young said Hernandez disclosed in great detail her confinement and the repeated abuse she had suffered. And within a few days, she revealed her captor’s name.

“What’s important to highlight is the courage that she had to survive for all of those months and her intelligence and her will to live; the fact that her family never gave up; the fact that law enforcement looked for her day in and day out for nine months – going to measures that the public will never know the extent of – to find her,” Young said.

Authorities surrounded  Kibby’s home and took him into custody on upwards of 200 charges. He is serving 40 to 90 years in prison after striking a plea deal with state prosecutors in 2016 that saved Hernandez from having to testify about the graphic and disturbing details of her abuse at trial.

Young told the Monitor on Friday that Hernandez’s strength shines on today.

“She is nothing short of a miracle – and she continues to be,” Young said.

Hernandez, who now lives in Maine, is a new mom eager to celebrate and show off her baby boy.

By coming forward publicly to share her story, Hernandez said she hopes to inspire others to never lose hope, even when they feel like they’ve hit rock bottom.

“Hope is something that nobody can take away from you,” she said. “Just keep that and you’ll keep going.”

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319, adandrea@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @_ADandrea.)