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By JIM FIELDER
PINNACLE BOOKSCopyright © 2013 Jim Fielder
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHe put gravy on me and then let a dog lick it off. —Cyndy Vigil, describing her torture by David Ray, 4/16/1999
Cyndy Vigil, twenty-two, ran down the narrow hall and out the door of the mobile home—fleeing for her life. It was late in the afternoon on March 22, 1999, and she had no idea where she was. She didn't know she was running down Bass Road in Elephant Butte, New Mexico. She just knew she had to get away from the two people who'd kept her in captivity for the last three horrible days and nights. She was naked from head to toe, except for the padlocked metal collar around her neck attached to a four-foot swinging chain dangling in the wind over her shoulder.
One local motorist saw her "running in circles" in the Hot Springs neighborhood overlooking the giant turquoise blue lake and the woman wanted to help. Doris Mitchell was driving home from afternoon grocery shopping, but the sight of the naked woman made her freeze in fear. She rolled up her windows and locked all her doors. She would not soon forget the frightened woman who ran beside her car and tried desperately to open her locked doors that day.
"She didn't say anything. She didn't say anything at all," Mitchell later told Frances Baird, a young reporter for the Sentinel, the local Sierra County newspaper. "She just looked wild."
By the time Vigil rounded the corner of the dusty dirt road and turned to flee down a patchy asphalt road leading to the lake, she was looking for shelter. The neighborhood was a jumble of mobile homes and looked to her like every yard was empty. As the road started to veer downhill, she got lucky and spotted a double-wide trailer on her left with a small grassy green yard surrounded by a tiny white picket fence. It was the home of Darlene and Donald Breech, who had worked and lived near Elephant Butte Lake for almost twenty-three years.
Without knocking, Vigil barged through the front door and started yelling at the top of her lungs. "Help me! Help me!" she shrieked.
Darlene Breech was standing in her kitchen pouring herself a glass of water when the hysterical girl suddenly appeared in her living room, stark naked and nearly out of her mind with fear.
"She didn't knock; she just burst in," Darlene later told Assistant District Attorney James A. Yontz. "As she was walkin' in the door, she just started screaming, 'Don't let them get me! Please help me!' She grabbed my arms and she didn't want to let go. I looked at her body and I couldn't believe my eyes.
"Her wrists looked like hamburger meat. She had beautiful long brown hair and it was all matted with blood. She was dirty all over and it looked like she had pooped in her pants. Her poor little boobs were black and blue and there were bruises all over her arms and legs.
"For some reason I didn't tell her to get out of the house. Donald and I are both retired, and we have four grown daughters, and to us she didn't look like she could hurt a flea. She couldn't have weighed over a hundred pounds, dripping wet.
"She held on to me real tight while she was talking and I had blood all over me. I tried to calm her down and a second later she ran over to the front door and dead-bolted it from the inside so nobody could snatch her. My husband, Don, was outside, watering the backyard.
"She ran back from the front door and grabbed my arm and started talking—very, very fast. She was terrified. She said some guy named David and his girlfriend, Cindy, had kept her locked up in a trailer for three days and nights, and during this time, they did nothing but torture her.
"She said on the third day David woke up and put on some kind of ranger uniform and went to work, leaving Hendy to watch her. She was chained to a wall while her captor watched a soap opera on television. Cyndy somehow managed to get a key and unlock herself from the wall, but the woman caught her and yelled, 'Hey, bitch, you're not going anywhere!' [She] hit [Cyndy] over the head with a big glass lamp.
"She escaped by stabbing this other woman in the back of the neck with an ice pick.
"Then she jumped through a window and ran for her life.
"Right away I called the nine-one-one operator. The first time I called, I told the operator what was going on, but not where I lived. I've lived here a long time and I know there are too many 'creepholes' living around Truth or Consequences, so I just hung up.
"Cyndy sat down in the kitchen. I've got this wet bar in my trailer and the bar stools are covered with a white Naugahyde kinda leather. I'm a smoker and I remember having a cigarette in the ashtray. I remember her sittin' there, smoking my cigarette, sitting on a stool."
Darlene listened to Vigil tell her that the man and the woman who hurt her were probably driving around the neighborhood looking for her, and Darlene told the young girl not to worry—Darlene Breech had a shotgun. What she didn't tell Vigil was the shotgun probably hadn't been fired in over fifty years.
"My husband, Donald, come in the back door and I explained what was going on. I told him to go to the closet and get my pink robe. Cyndy is just a little bitty thing and that pink bathrobe just swallowed her up. Right after she put it on, she hugged herself and went over and sat in the corner, cuddling herself, kinda like a little kid.
"She was real quiet, just whimpering.
"I called nine-one-one again and told them we lived next to Elephant Butte Lake, and a few minutes later, the deputies drove down Hot Springs Landing Road and the fools drove right past the house! Don went outside and waved them down. When Vigil saw the police, she just went outside and threw herself at them. They never came inside the house.
"They took her away and I went inside the house and started shaking all over. Right away I called my oldest daughter, who works as a nurse at the local Sierra Vista County Hospital. She told me to clean everything with Clorox.
"I must have cleaned the house for three hours, nonstop.
"I found out later the police picked up the kidnappers, Ray and Hendy, driving around less than a block from my house. If I had waited any longer to call back to the nine-one-one operator, they would have been at my door...."
Sierra County sheriff's deputy Lucas Alvarez picked up Cyndy Vigil in front of Don and Darlene's double-wide and rushed her to the Sierra Vista County Hospital, where the dog collar and chain were cut off in the emergency room and doctors and nurses began to care for her banged-up body. His partner, David Elston, drove the three blocks to Ray's mobile home to search it.
The rutted wood sign out in front read DAVID P. RAY. There was a six-foot-high chain-link fence surrounding the entire piece of lakeside rental property. Ray's long brown-and-white mobile home was set far back from the dirt road and it was surrounded by two sheds, a bait trailer and a large white cargo trailer just off the northern end of the front porch. There were two sailboats and a car garage in the front yard.
Elston stepped through the open sliding glass door in the back of the building and "cleared" the house for any other persons. It was deserted.
He walked through a hallway into a middle bedroom and the first thing he saw was broken shards of green glass on the floor, next to a broken lamp, next to a broken window. There were smears of blood on the tangled sheets of the bed. A large dildo stood on a counter nearby. There was a long coffinlike box next to one wall, and when he looked up at the ceiling, he saw a pulley device with hooks and chains that slid along half-inch steel rods attached to the ceiling.
In the meantime, police from Elephant Butte State Park arrested David Parker Ray and Cynthia Lea Hendy driving down Springfield Road in his red camper—not far from where Vigil had found her refuge. The police housed the two suspects in the Cooper Police Training Center on the edge of the nearby town, Truth or Consequences.
Prior to 1950, the town had been called Hot Springs, New Mexico, but Ralph Edwards, popular host of a radio game show called Truth or Consequences, said he would broadcast a segment of the show from any town that changed its name to honor his program. The locals took the bait and ever since then the town has been called Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, or as the locals call it, T or C. The name change officially took place on April 1, 1950.
Control of the David Parker Ray case quickly jumped from local T or C hands into the more experienced hands of the New Mexico State Police (NMSP). Agent Wesley LaCuesta was a five-year veteran of the Criminal Assault and Violent Crimes Investigation Section when he first got the call to help on the case. When he heard the news out of T or C, he left his office in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and hurried north on Interstate 25, arriving in Truth or Consequences at 5:55 P.M.
Within hours he was briefed, and later that Monday night, he started interviewing Cyndy Vigil at the local Sierra Vista County Hospital. His report on the victim, as filed in the early arrest warrant issued for David Parker Ray, is chilling. It reads:
I observed small cuts on both her legs, bruising on her right arm and bruising and abrasions on both her wrists. I also observed welt marks on her back and small puncture wounds and light bruising on her breasts.
She indicated that on Saturday, March 20, 1999, between 10:00 and 11:00 A.M., she was streetwalking on Central Avenue (Highway 66) in Albuquerque and she was introduced to the two suspects by a local pimp. She met Ray and Hendy in a recreational vehicle owned by Ray. When she stepped inside the RV, Ray showed her a small police badge and told her she was under arrest for solicitation. Hendy then came out of the vehicle restroom and handcuffed her. She was restrained to a fixture in the camper and the suspects stripped her of all her clothing and threatened to shock her if she resisted.
Ms. Vigil stated that she was then taken to an unknown location where she was restrained by her arms and her legs. She said Ray placed dildos into her vagina and rectum simultaneously while Hendy watched on. She described receiving "shock therapy" in which Ray attached electrical connections to her breasts, which would send electrical shocks through her body. Both times, Hendy would wave a small revolver, threatening to shoot her if she tried to escape.
Ms. Vigil recounted how on Sunday, March 21, 1999, Ray and Hendy hung her from the ceiling in one bedroom by her arms and legs. She was then whipped on the back with a leather whip. After the whipping, Ray inserted a large metal dildo into her vagina.
Ms. Vigil also stated that an introductory audiotape recording was played to her, detailing what David Ray was going to do to her. She was also shown photographs of other naked women who had been tied up. Ms. Vigil stated that Ray took photographs of her while she was restrained from the ceiling of one of his rooms.
She referred to this room as "the dirty room."
Chapter TwoThey say before this thing is over, the Charles Manson family will look like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. —Mary Jo Montgomery, chief clerk, magistrate court (T or C), 6/13/1999
Before David Ray attracted national attention, Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, was just another small, sleepy community. Population 6,000. Most of the residents were "snowbirds," folks who moved there for the spectacular weather (355 days of sunshine a year, according to the Sierra County Sentinel). The average age of residents was fifty-eight years old. Six months before Ray put T or C on the map, Andrew Alexander, president of the chamber of commerce, made a few off-the-cuff comments on the local state of mind.
"Before 1998, there was a sentiment that nothing's going to happen around here, which troubled some, but pleased those who wanted it to stay small and quiet," said Alexander. "Now there's a sentiment that something is going to happen, and that troubles people, too, but I think it brings them together."
It took only two days in the spring of 1999 for David Parker Ray to bring the community together.
Local leaders had declared 1998 to be "the Year of the Bible," and by Tuesday night, March 23, many elderly people in the retirement community felt like 1999 was truly going to be called "the Year of the Devil." They were in a state of panic over the allegations that the nearby city of Elephant Butte might be home to a group of crazed sexual sadists. People were up in arms.
The state's "top cop" quickly called a town hall meeting to allow people to express their fear and anger.
Darren White, head of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, dropped his busy schedule in Albuquerque and hurriedly flew into the tiny Truth or Consequences Municipal Airport. He was picked up by state police and rushed to the meeting. He sat at a small table in front of several hundred worried people and calmly tried to answer as many questions as he knew the answers to (there still had not been charges filed). One eighty-eight-year-old lady asked him what he was going to do about the "evil nightmare" that threatened the peace and quiet of her beloved desert home. White looked back at her, shaken.
"The nightmare is behind bars," he told her. "This is a safe community."
The next day, Wednesday, March 24, David Ray and Cindy Hendy were brought to the magistrate court in T or C to face separate arraignment hearings in front of Magistrate Judge Thomas Pestak. They were both in chains and shackles. Hendy walked into the courtroom in her orange jail jumpsuit; the dour dishwater blonde told the swarming media in a hushed voice, "I'm innocent. ... I'm afraid to talk." David Ray, his face rough and wrinkled from years of working in the sun, shook his head and spoke softly after a reporter asked him if he "did it."
"It didn't happen that way," he said.
Inside the courtroom, both suspects told Pestak they were too poor to pay for an attorney and each one asked for a public defender. Ray worked, but Hendy told the judge she was trying to get by on only $331 a month from her welfare check. Pestak listened to Socorro, New Mexico, prosecutor Jim Yontz present a list of twenty-five felony charges against each defendant. The charges included kidnapping, criminal sexual penetration (rape with dildos), aggravated assault and criminal conspiracy. If convicted of all charges, Ray and Hendy would each be sentenced to 197 years behind bars. Judge Pestak was concerned that Ray and Hendy might flee, so he set their bail high enough so that neither would try to make a run for it.
"One million dollars each," he told them. "Cash."
There was a true media feeding frenzy when the case broke. The New York Times and People magazine were on the scene. The Albuquerque Journal sent down several reporters. The supermarket tabloid the Globe had a reporter up in Everett, Washington, digging up the dirt on Cindy Hendy, and a reporter in T or C looking into David Ray's past. CBS, NBC and ABC all had lead stories on the evening news that week. Television stations from all over New Mexico filled the twenty-two town motels. The Associated Press reporter and cameraman were everywhere, as were the three local T or C weeklies, the Sentinel, the Herald and the Desert Journal.
Local county sheriff Terry Byers watched the media mobs take over the two neighboring towns during those first few days of the investigation: "The first night we only had one television news truck and after Wednesday we had ten trucks here within hours."
Major Bob Barnes of Elephant Butte complained that noisy helicopters were disrupting his traditional afternoon nap. He told a news conference that most of the people in town didn't even lock their doors at night and now Elephant Butte was becoming famous as a haven for white-trash sadists.
"We feel violated," he said.
When the Rio Grande was dammed in 1916 to create Elephant Butte Lake and more irrigation water for the farmers and ranchers of southern New Mexico, thousands of rattlesnakes congregated on an island that later became known as Rattlesnake Island. The island is right across the lake from where David Ray lived on his lease lot property at Hot Springs Landing.
Frances Baird was only seventeen years old when Ray was arrested, and she didn't have any idea how nasty the story would be, but she was the only crime reporter for the Sentinel. When the story broke, she already had an inside scoop on what was going on "with that snake in the grass, David Ray."
Her boyfriend, Byron Wilson, twenty-seven, was the park cop who arrested Ray and Hendy on the first afternoon.
During the first week of the investigation, the New Mexico State Police spearheaded the effort to collect evidence from Ray's property, including—what Frances heard described as—shocking videotapes, possible "snuff" videos, and a bunch of audiotapes David had made to try to "freak out" the victims. She also heard that David used to call the cargo trailer his "play box"; that is, until Cindy Hendy talked him into renaming it the "toy box."
Excerpted from SLOW DEATH by JIM FIELDER Copyright © 2013 by Jim Fielder. Excerpted by permission of PINNACLE BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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