A local woman is sharing her emotional story of survival after being abducted and raped near Richmond's airport.
It's been 20 years since the violent East Henrico attack. Now Wanda Mills is speaking out on a national stage, hoping to help other women cope with tragedy.
"It was a cold March rainy morning," remembers Wanda Mills.
She was in town on business and out for a morning jog. When shed rounded the corner of Klockner Drive and Sarellen Road she was attacked.
"He had me in a headlock and a knife in my throat," said Mills.
The six-hour rape and attack made headlines. Wanda Mills is now returning to the scene for the first time in 20 years.
"He took me right into the woods where that gate is right now," said Mills. "We went back into the woods about 25 or 30 yards and there is where he started to rape me."
She was dragged in a headlock with hands shielding her view through wet leaves and debris. She was then tied up to five trees by her wrists, ankles and neck.
"He was screaming, 'I had to do this to you,'" recalls Mills. "'You know I had to do this to you. You would have never given it to me.'"
Wanda remembers being sustained by faith and prayer.
"And I said, 'God did I see my family and talk to everyone significant in my life because I'm to die today,'" prayed Wanda. "'Please don't allow him to stab me to death. I pray he shoots me or I lay here and die of consumption, but I just don't think I could bear being cut up.'"
Wanda survived, and she's now sharing her story on national television on the Ricki Lake Show. She joined a group of women with similar stories in a segment called Women Fight Back.
"It was a mind game," said Wanda. "It was a war of the minds going on here."
Wanda played Charles Richard Riley so well, he ended up convinced they could one day fall in love.
"He says, 'I want to walk you home,'" noted Wanda. "He says, 'I really like you.'"
They set out on foot on the busy Williamsburg Road heading in the direction of the airport. As soon as she had a chance, Wanda took out across the street and ran down the median toward her hotel.
"And my co-worker that I worked with came running out of the hotel, scooped me up in his arms, and I screamed, 'I'm alive!'"
Within minutes, Wanda took police back to the scene in the woods to comb for evidence. They were crucial moments that helped lead to Riley's arrest. Convicting him would take three different trials.
"He kept coming back," said Wanda. "He was fighting for his life."
Riley is now serving six life terms. It has allowed Wanda to close off that terrifying chapter of life for good. She admits she still gets sad.
"I can't say I don't," said Wanda. "I have a lump in my throat as I talk to you about it, but I think that's a good thing."
Wanda says she is not angry about the vicious attack that troubled police.
"I learned so much about him that day," said Wanda. "I forgave him while he was doing it; otherwise, I would have been the prisoner."
Wanda says the biggest thing she wants victims to remember is it's not your fault. She now helps with sexual assault training for the Henrico Police Department.
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