Many people grow up and move to different states from their parents. Thanks to technology, there are lots of ways to stay in touch — and thanks to technology, two daughters were able to recognize when something was very wrong with their mother.
Jennifer Holt and Meredith Holt-Caldwell live on the West Coast, far from their mother and their childhood home in Lincolnwood, Illinois.
On Feb. 6, they both sensed something was wrong with their mom, 80-year-old Denyse Holt.
Holt-Caldwell noticed her mother hadn’t seen her text messages or responded, while her sister noticed that Holt hadn’t sent her daily score from the popular word game Wordle, which she had a habit of doing every morning.
That evening, the sisters called each other and hashed out a plan.
They had tried calling their mother’s cellphone, but a message said her inbox was full. When they tried calling Holt’s landline, it said the line was disconnected.
They also found out from a close friend that Holt hadn’t shown up for a planned afternoon out to catch a show.
Worried that their mother might have fallen or experienced some other medical emergency, the sisters contacted next-door neighbor Dave, who confirmed that her car was in the driveway but said no one answered when he rang the doorbell.
Finally, the sisters called for a wellness check from the Lincolnwood police, and it’s a good thing they did: They never would have guessed what had been happening.
Starting shortly after midnight on Feb. 6, Denyse Holt had been experiencing an unimaginable horror. She woke to a naked, bleeding man standing next to her bed, wielding a pair of scissors.
She immediately assumed a calm demeanor and tried to puzzle her way out of the situation — but things just kept getting weirder.
First, the man got into bed with her.
“I was in shock,” Holt told WBBM-TV in Chicago.
Later, she told The Washington Post that the man had told her, “If you talk, if you yell or you scream, I’m going to cut you.”
“I was trying to survive, that’s all,” Holt said. “He said, ‘I won’t harm you or molest you.'”
She saw the man was shivering, and he told her to bring him all the blankets in the house, which she did.
Then he told her he was still too cold and he needed to take a shower. With her.
“Then he said, ‘No, I’m not warm enough. We have to take a bath,'” Holt continued.
Wearing a drenched nightgown, she was then dragged around the house as the man perused its contents, disconnected the phone and admired her cutlery. The whole time, he was bleeding all over everything from wounds he’d sustained breaking in through a window.
Holt was sure she was about to die a horrible death.
“He took two knives from my kitchen,” she said. “He … he told me he liked those.”
And then the man barricaded her in the basement bathroom, where she stayed — cold, wet, without her medication and sure she would die — for the next 17 hours.
To keep herself busy, Holt kept marching and stretching and reminded herself of all the people who’d gotten through worse situations. She came up with a few plans to escape — hit the intruder with the toilet cover or make a run for the back door — but each time she saw flaws in the plans that made her decide not to act.
Finally, at 9:40 p.m., she heard her neighbor and police calling out, and she answered. She was safe.
The intruder — identified by Lincolnwood police as James H. Davis III, 32 — was found upstairs in a bedroom, and he resisted until SWAT arrived and used a stun gun through a hole cut in the door to subdue him.
Authorities believe he was suffering from mental issues. He was arrested and charged with home invasion with a dangerous weapon, aggravated kidnapping while armed with a dangerous weapon and two counts of aggravated assault against a peace officer, all felonies.
Holt was relieved to be rescued.
“I can’t say enough good things,” she said. “They were beyond wonderful. … I’m very lucky.”
“I still feel lucky to be alive,” Holt added. “I never thought I would come out of that alive.”
While she’s doing well, she said will never be able to live in the house again. There were bloodstains everywhere, and while she’d lived in the home for decades and it held so much family history, it now holds a chapter she doesn’t ever want to relive.
“I came back, and it didn’t look like my house,” Holt said. “It just looked disgusting. … It just made me terribly sad, because I like my neighborhood. I like my neighbors. I like my house. And I know I couldn’t live there anymore. That’s just taken away from me.
“In one night, it is just all washed away by one person.”
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