Early on the morning of Tuesday, August 17, 1999, Juliette Jones woke to a stranger massaging her feet.
At first, she thought her legs were merely tangled in the sheets. The summer heat made sleep difficult, and the air conditioner chugging in Juliettes window was losing its battle with the sauna outside.
Juliette was 32, the single mother of a 4-year-old daughter, Molly. She and Mollys father, Shane McFall, had recently ended their on-again, off-again relationship. Her job at a nonprofit, serving families affected by domestic violence, kept her busy and made good use of her masters degree in social work.
She lived with her daughter in a rental house on the 4400 block of Eaton, just a few blocks from State Line Road. The modest, one-story houses on Eaton have porches, and Juliette was friendly with most of her neighbors. Her landlords, an older couple, lived next door. Weekend evenings often began with neighbors bopping from porch to porch, cracking beers, doors wide-open.
Something that summer — maybe the breakup with McFall or summertime nostalgia — had propelled her into a phase of youthful abandon.
A night or two earlier, Juliette had thrown a party at her house for her co-workers, neighbors and friends. They had cooked out and stayed up late. Molly was visiting her grandmother in her rural Missouri home.
Tired, Juliette figured the bags of beer cans and party trash in the garage could wait until morning to be dragged to the curb. She drank a couple of the leftover beers in her refrigerator and went to bed.
It was not yet light outside when Juliette realized that a man, not her sheets, was holding her feet. At first, she thought it was Matt, a late-night hookup who sometimes called after the bars closed. But Matt never showed up unannounced.
Juliette leaped out of bed. As her eyes adjusted to the dim room, she saw that the man who had wakened her was no one she knew. His pants were unzipped and hanging around his knees.
Then she noticed the knife. She thought, Oh, fuck.
"Just be quiet," he said. "Do what I say, and I won't hurt you."
She slept naked, so there were no clothes for him to struggle with. Juliette sank back onto the bed, and the man got on top of her.
I'll make a human connection with him, and then he'll realize I'm a person and he'll stop, Juliette thought. She stared up into the man's eyes as if to ask, Really? You really want to hurt me?
The man put a pillow over her face.
"Please," Juliette protested. "Please — I have a 4-year-old daughter."
"Oh," the man said. "I'm not really into that."
As the intruder strained over her, Juliette retreated into herself, waiting for the rape to be over. He pulled her to one side, moving her body perpendicular to the bed. Then he stabbed her, driving a kitchen knife in just above her left hip.
Juliette tore the pillow from her face in time to see a horror-movie fountain of blood spray from her stomach. "What are you doing? You said you wouldn't hurt me!" she said.
"You saw my face, and now I have to kill you."
Until the moment he started stabbing her, he had called her "ma'am." Juliette says, "He was the nicest rapist you'd ever want to meet." Two of her friends and a reporter laugh. This is her way of taking care of her listeners, buoying them up with humor when the story gets grim. Answering a question about whether her assailant had used one of her own knives to attack her, she smiles and says, "Oh, no. I never had good knives, even then."
Furrowed brows and sympathy aren't the responses she's looking for anymore. This month marks 10 years since the assault, and of her survival. Recounting the story to The Pitch is like putting a period at the end of a decade of victimhood. Maybe talking about it will help other victims, she says, let them know "they can still live — well."
And maybe, she says, there's still a chance to catch the fucker who did it.
Juliette has poured iced tea and set out a plate of snacks for her guests. Jane and Katie, two close, longtime friends, sit with her in the living room of the home she shares with Molly, now 14. Molly's not here now, which is part of the plan. She knows an abbreviated version of events, and Juliette doesn't want her to hear the rest. That's also why all of the names of the people in Juliette's life have been changed for this story. Jane and Katie are here for support and to fill in details that Juliette might forget.
With no Kleenex in sight, Juliette continues.
"I must have blacked out for a minute," she says. "The next thing I remember, I decided: I'm going to play dead. That's my strategy."
The man believed her act for a moment and started praying. "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name ... "
It was as though he were asking for forgiveness, Juliette says.
"But then he cut me here," she says, pointing to her stomach, "and he cut me, like, sliced it down a little bit," tracing a finger down the left side of her neck and down past her collarbone, "and then here," indicating a puckered line traveling straight down the left side of her chest, ending in a forked shape visible above the collar of her V-neck shirt.
"Then, before I thought of another strategy, he stabbed me here and twisted it," she says, miming an imaginary knife gouging her right breast. "And then I'm like, I'm going to die. I'm gonna die. I'm 32, and that's OK. I'm cool with that."
For the first time in the interview, Juliette's voice breaks. "And then I thought, Oh, fuck, I have Molly. I can't die. That will really fuck her up.
"I cuss a lot," she says through her tears, and her listeners laugh again. Regaining composure, she goes on. "I'm like, That will really fuck her up. You gotta live.
"So then I'm like, 'You crazy motherfucker!'" she says. "I just started kicking him, and he must have been a pretty little guy because he slammed against the wall. It was a pretty small room, but he slammed against the wall and he said, 'Bitch, you got blood all over me.'"
Juliette takes a breath. "By this time, it seemed to me to be pre-dawn outside, and I just kept screaming, 'Get the fuck out of here!' And I didn't realize what was happening, but it was getting harder for me to scream because both of my lungs were punctured. I didn't have much scream in me."
Suddenly the man was rushing to leave. He charged about the room, collecting his evidence. "What'd you do with my glove?" he asked. Juliette assumes that he found it because he left.
She would later discover that the man stole only one thing: her driver's license.
Juliette tried to call 911, but her line had been cut. She crawled toward her landlord's house next door. Her left arm dangled uselessly because of a severed nerve in her shoulder. Another slash had nicked a carotid artery.
"My guts were literally falling out of my body," she says, cradling her stomach as she speaks, "so I was holding my guts — my intestines — in, and then this arm was paralyzed, and I was crawling to my neighbor's, naked and bloody, at, like, six o'clock in the morning."
She passed out twice on the way, once on her steps and again in her yard. "I remember waking up and thinking, I'm almost there, I'm almost there."
Despite the early hour, the couple answered their door. They didn't recognize her at first. While the woman called for an ambulance, her husband stayed with Juliette on the porch.
Juliette was cold, despite the August warmth. As she was about to be loaded into the ambulance, she took off her oxygen mask long enough to tell an EMT, "I'm going to stay alive until you get me to the hospital, but make sure to tell the doctors that they have to save me. They have to because I have a daughter."
Juliette's heart stopped twice. Surgeons at St. Luke's Hospital had to crack her sternum and manually squeeze her heart until it pumped on its own again.
She vaguely recalls hearing nurses repeat, "She's got a pneumothorax," a collapsed lung. The medical term reminded her of the words to a Dr. Seuss book she had read with Molly, The Lorax.
Meanwhile, friends and family began to fill the hospital's waiting room. Kansas City, Kansas, homicide detectives were there with the expectation that Juliette wouldn't survive. When her ex, McFall, got to the lobby of St. Luke's, Juliette's brother-in-law warned him that the police wanted to question him and didn't want him near Juliette's room.
McFall was stunned, he tells The Pitch. "My relationship with Juliette was not great, but it was functional." He left and was later contacted by Kansas City, Kansas, police detectives, who asked that he come to their headquarters.
Juliette's sister, Jill, who is a nurse, was at Juliette's bedside when her eyes fluttered open just hours after surgery. She stretched out a hand for a piece of paper and a pencil and wrote the words "I was raped." A technician called a SANE — sexual assault nurse educator — had already collected DNA evidence for the crime lab.
Juliette's mother kept Molly away from the hospital, but the little girl saw the Eaton house on the news. KMBC Channel 9's Larry Moore recounted the attack as one of the day's top stories, and cameras followed a trail of blood from Juliette's home to her neighbor's porch. "That's my bike!" Molly said, pointing at the screen. Juliette's family agreed to tell Molly that her mother had been in a car accident.
Because tubes and IVs made her so inaccessible, Juliette's visitors would rub her feet. But her assailant had transformed that loving gesture into something agonizing.
"I wanted to be like, 'Stop it,'" Juliette says. "I finally could speak again and told them, 'Get the fuck off my feet. That's the last place I want you to touch.' "
She says she told the homicide detectives that McFall was not the one who had attacked her, and she described the man who had.
McFall is a criminal lawyer with a degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City's School of Law. He asked a fellow lawyer to accompany him to Kansas City, Kansas, police headquarters. But despite the fact that Juliette had described another man — a black man (McFall is white) — he says the detectives thought she was just covering for him. "They were very belligerent with me and basically told me they thought that I did it," McFall says. "What can you say?"
That was the only time detectives interviewed McFall. He is surprised that he was never asked to provide a DNA sample to rule him out as a suspect.
After police detectives completed their investigation at the Eaton address, Juliette's friends and family went to pack her belongings and move Juliette and Molly out of the house. Katie says, "There was blood everywhere — on the doorknob, on the carpet, on her bed."
"One thing I remember about that was, there was graphite black dust around on the doorjambs and a couple doorways inside, where the police dusted for prints," McFall says. "In Molly's room, I noticed her window was unlocked and open, and the storm window was off the house. But there was no dust back there."
Juliette describes one of the two primary detectives as "a very Law & Order, NYPD Blue kind of guy. He had that swagger." Though when she told him the story of the attack, she says, he cried.
The detectives would drop by Juliette's bed with photos of black men they had questioned and photographed in Juliette's neighborhood. None of them looked familiar.
In the hospital, Juliette couldn't rest. Previews for the horror movie The Blair Witch Project were constantly on television. She would smell cologne and swear it belonged to the rapist. Like a bar bouncer, Jill intercepted hospital staff members at the door, permitting only essential visitors. She did this in part to calm her sister's nerves but also because she knew, as a nurse, that Juliette's many open wounds rendered her susceptible to infection.
After two weeks, Juliette went home with Jill. "They wanted to put me in a medical journal and write an article about my healing because it was so quick," Juliette says.
Quick is still relative. Juliette had to be treated for a year for the hepatitis C she contracted through the countless quarts of blood poured into her in the emergency room. Doctors operated on her chest, her neck and her head. Above where the artery in her neck had been clipped, her left eyelid drooped and she lost feeling on some of her face. Most devastating was the nerve damage in her left arm, which cut off all use of her deltoid and other shoulder muscles. A physical therapist made house calls to introduce Juliette to little aids, such as shoelaces that end in coils and don't require tying. "It was like, 'This is the way you're going to be, so learn to live with it,'" Juliette says. She told the therapist that her services would no longer be necessary.
Visits from detectives became less and less frequent, until it seemed to Juliette that the police department had given up.
There was some good news: The nonprofit where Juliette worked had a solid insurance plan. Anything that wasn't covered by her insurance was paid for through services of the Crime Victims Compensation Board of the Kansas Attorney General's Office.
The therapist Juliette saw every week for the first two years "was really empowering," Juliette says. "She was like, 'Do whatever makes you feel better. If you need to put your dresser in front of your bedroom door, go ahead and do it. Whatever helps you sleep. If your daughter needs to sleep in your room in order for you to feel safe, do it.'"
Having permission to feel scared was oddly helpful. Still, in November 1999, when she was well enough to move out of her sister's and into a new place with Molly, she was tormented by the idea that the rapist had her driver's license. Juliette considered changing her name but never did. "For five years, I knew for sure he was coming to get me," she says. "I knew it."
McFall was a failure in the empathy department. Juliette jokes that one of the first times her ex saw her after the attack, he said, "Thank God he didn't kill you, so that you could tell them that it wasn't me." But McFall did play one major part in the pursuit of Juliette's rapist.
McFall ran into an old law-school classmate, Tristram Hunt, and mentioned Juliette's assault. At the time, Hunt was employed as a prosecutor with the Wyandotte County District Attorney's Office. Hunt offered to look into the case.
Hunt was just in time. In 2001, Kansas had a two-year statute of limitations for violent crimes. Statutes of limitations, which vary by state, exist because, in theory, a suspect's ability to mount a defense against a criminal charge diminishes with the passing of time. Under the two-year statute of limitations, prosecutors would lose their opportunity to charge anyone in Juliette's attack as of August 17, 2001.
But by 2001, prosecutors had increasingly begun to use DNA evidence to circumvent statutes of limitations.
Ted Hunt (no relation to Tristram) of the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office in Kansas City, Missouri, specializes in sex crimes and the use of DNA evidence. The federal rules, he explains, allow prosecutors to charge perpetrators by name "or by any other description through which they can be identified with reasonable certainty." When an assailant leaves behind enough DNA for a forensic crime lab to create a profile based on genetic markers, those genetic markers can be used in lieu of a name when charging a suspect for a crime. Prosecutors refer to these defendants as "John Does."
On May 1, 2001, then Wyandotte County District Attorney Nick Tomasic charged Juliette's John Doe with attempted murder, rape and aggravated burglary and set bond at $1 million. It was the first time that the district attorney in Wyandotte County had charged an unidentified suspect based on DNA evidence. The charges effectively stopped the clock on the statute of limitations.
When the DNA profile in Juliette's case was developed by the crime lab of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, it was entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), which checked it first against forensic samples of offenders at the local and state levels and then against samples in jurisdictions nationwide. No hits.
"It's not like a one-time search," Ted Hunt says. CODIS periodically rechecks unidentified profiles against the new profiles that are constantly entered into the system. "Something could sit and languish, let's say, for years, and then somebody new comes into the system. If they get convicted, they're required to give a sample, their profile gets developed and gets uploaded, and then all of a sudden you get a hit."
The Missouri Legislature passed a law in 2009 requiring anyone arrested for violent crimes, sex offenses and burglaries to submit DNA samples. If they are found guilty, the profile is entered into CODIS. If they're not guilty, the profile is erased.
Some profiles will never get a match in CODIS. Persons who commit non-felony crimes aren't subject to CODIS entry. If Juliette's rapist were later convicted of a misdemeanor, he wouldn't be required to submit his DNA to the database. In other cases, "maybe the suspect dies, and his profile, before he died, for whatever reason, didn't make it into the system," Ted Hunt says. "That profile [from Juliette's attacker] is always going to be in there, and you're never going to match to it."
If Juliette's rapist had other victims in Kansas City, Kansas, a matching DNA profile may still be waiting to be discovered. Jerome Gorman, the current Wyandotte County district attorney, says he has a backlog of rape kits from crimes in Kansas City, Kansas, that have never been examined for DNA. The backlog is big enough to keep one forensic lab tech busy for a while, he says. But there's not enough staff to tackle the problem, he said, blaming cutbacks in the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and personnel shortages in his office and in the statewide forensic lab. "We don't have the luxury ... of our own DNA technicians," Gorman says. "It's not like we can monopolize all their [the KBI lab's] time."
A hit on the DNA profile is the only way the crime will be solved, says Capt. Vince Davenport, who commanded the homicide unit during the investigation of Juliette's case in 1999 and now oversees the police academy for the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department.
His detectives pressed every lead, Davenport says. "I will tell you that for many months after this crime became known to us, we continued to stop people in the area around her home. We were constantly looking for anyone that might have information that might match the description that she had given. You really never forget about cases like this."
The case still haunts Davenport. "There's only so many leads that you can run down, and after that, you really are stuck," he says. "Even now, 10 years later, it sickens me to know that this person has yet to face justice for this. It sickens me and it sickens all the detectives who are involved in these types of cases, that evil can sometimes prevail. And in this case, for the last 10 years, this perpetrator, this evil, has won so far."
Juliette had always been the "fun" sister. "She painted her living room bright-blue," Jill says of her sister. "Mine's beige." It pained Juliette that her young nieces and nephews sensed a change. Bold and adventurous Aunt Jul was suddenly scared of everything.
"I don't think she can live the way she wants to because of her illnesses and chronic pain," Jill says. When Jill suffered a short bout of tendonitis, she says, it was "a little, tiny glimmer for me of what she feels all the time."
Her fear subsided slowly. Juliette's brother-in-law installed a security system in the new house, and a friend gave her a big dog, a trained Akita, who went everywhere with her and Molly at first. When Juliette didn't want to sleep alone, friends took shifts staying over.
Certain men found her fragility attractive during those first few years. A guy whom she and Jane met at the 75th Street Brewery became a steady sleepover buddy. "I must have had a sign over my head that read, 'Victim Needs Someone to Stay the Night at Her House for the Next Year,'" Juliette says.
Intimacy wasn't impossible, but the rules had changed. In the past, she had been attracted to tall, physically strong men. Now, she prefers the opposite.
"For the most part, I lost the desire," Juliette says, glancing at the friends in her living room. "It just really sort of killed that part of me. Which, as these girls can attest, was a pretty important part at one time."
In 2004, she says, "My life, externally, started going really well." She got a new job with another nonprofit. The work was satisfying. She believed that she had reached a turning point.
"But something that lingered, always, was that people saw me as a victim," Juliette says. "And I got special treatment because of it, I think. People carried things for me because they knew my arm was kind of jacked up. I just didn't want that anymore. I just wanted not to be that anymore."
She left her job and went back to school for a doctorate. She stopped taking her anxiety and depression medications cold turkey. And she started drinking — not a lot, she's careful to say, but enough to keep a regular buzz going. Enough to stay numb.
All the pressure that Juliette put on herself to shake free of victimhood led to a huge crash. Those who witness or experience intense violence often go through bouts of post-traumatic stress disorder. The PTSD that hit Juliette was like "living in a constant panic attack," she says. At the same time, pain in her shoulder forced her to return to physical therapy. To her, it felt like a major setback.
You can't slam the book on victimhood, Juliette realized.
Today, Juliette is preparing her dissertation. She's back on medication, which helps her live with constant pain. She has to be mindful of what she eats because doctors have removed sections of her intestines that were damaged in the attack. Deciding on a balance of drugs that will keep her comfortable but not act as a chemical crutch is "a constant mindfuck," she says. Her last vice is nicotine gum.
Molly and Juliette are close and fiercely protective of each other. Though she winces a little when Molly describes the cute boys at her school, Juliette says, "I can't just lock her up like I've locked myself up. I was definitely making out with guys at her age, and I can't not let her have that. So it's just something I'm going through, I guess."
When the August humidity descends on the city, Juliette finds herself on guard. Small rituals make the month easier, like scheduling a visit with a trusted massage therapist whose hands will iron out her anxiety.
The week of the anniversary, Juliette is treating herself and a niece to pedicures at a salon. For her, it's more than cosmetic — every time she surrenders her feet to a stranger's touch, the bad association recedes a bit further into the past.
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