When a woman in Charleston, West Virginiaopened her front door to greet a stranger she had arranged to meet through an escort ad she had placed with Back.
That was the start of 10 minutes of unadulterated horror. The man grabbed the woman by the throat and dragged her around the house, until in a rush of pure adrenaline and an effort for self-preservation, she snatched up his gun and shot once, killing him.
When homicide detectives from the Charleston police department began combing over the site on the day of the attack, 18 July, they were amazed by what they found. The slain attacker, Neal Falls, appeared at first sight to be unexceptional — a year-old former security guard from Springfield, Oregon, who had no serious criminal record and only a few minor traffic infractions to his name.
But then, investigators were puzzled to find that he had no money on him.
Why would a man visit an escort for an appointment with no money on him? It included an array of handcuffs, two axes, a machete, a bullet-proof vest and — the most disturbing items — a shovel and a bottle of bleach.
Police now believe that the woman, who has not been named to spare further trauma, not only saved her own life but may have prevented the deaths of countless other women in future. They are actively investigating the possibility that Falls could have been a serial killer who operated across several states.
The search has now taken in Chillicothe, Ohioa small town of about 20, people where at least six women have disappeared, four later turning up dead, in the past couple of months. The drama of what happened when Falls entered the Charleston house was captured on an emergency call made just after the shooting.
The victim told the Gazette-Mail immediately after the attack that Falls had tried to suffocate her. As he was dragging her through the kitchen, she grabbed a rake and prepared to hit him with it.
To stop her, he put his gun down, and she pounced. The woman said that she had been preparing a long time for that split second where she saved her own life and possibly stopped a serial killer.
West Virginia. This article is more than 6 years old.
Neal Falls was shot by a woman he tried to rape and strangle in Charleston, West Virginia. Photograph: Charleston Police Department.
Ed Pilkington in New York. Sun 26 Jul Tension grips Ohio town after deaths and disappearances of six women.
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