A woman who was abducted, imprisoned, and repeatedly sexually assaulted in the basement of a Moncton, N.B., boarding house in 2010 for 26 days says thoughts of her family and her unborn grandchildren gave her the will to escape.
The woman, in her mid-50s, is originally from Isle aux Morts, N.L., and lived in Gander for many years before moving to Moncton in 2004. Her identity is protected under a court-ordered publication ban.
She decided to speak out about her ordeal to the CBC in order to let people who have been wondering about her know how she's doing.
Grabbed by stranger
The woman was leaving the Highfield Square mall in downtown Moncton on Feb. 26, 2010, after finishing her shift at a tax kiosk when she was grabbed in the parking lot. Romeo Cormier, then 62, of Moncton, held her by knifepoint.
She said Cormier was a complete stranger to her.
Cormier dragged her on a 10-minute walk to his dark and dingy basement apartment, where he duct-taped her hands and mouth.
Over three sleepless days and nights, the woman was raped repeatedly by Cormier, and endured hours of threats and her captor's drug taking.
After that, Cormier left her alone, bound by her hands and feet, gagged, and tethered by her neck to a coffee table.
"I said to myself, 'When I get my chance, I'm just going to make a break for it and let him kill me because I can't do this anymore.' I just knew I couldn't survive being tied and gagged like that."
Later that evening, Cormier returned and watched the evening television news with her. That, she said, was when she found the will to fight for her life.
Her disappearance was the top story, and featured her eldest daughter appealing to the public for any information about her missing mother. In addition, the daughter, who was pregnant, revealed that her younger sister was also expecting a child.
"And when I heard that, it was just like some wave came over me," recalled the abducted woman. "I could see how hurt everybody was, and it showed pictures of my family and everything, and I just knew that the only thing I could do to help them was that I had to survive."
Thoughts consumed with escape
For the next 23 days, as the woman continued to be confined and sexually assaulted, she said her mind was consumed with forming an escape plan. She considered attacking Cormier with knives or a hammer she saw lying around his apartment, but she realized she would not have the strength to overpower him.
Finally, at about 11:20 a.m. on March 24, 2010, Cormier hurriedly tied her up so he could get to his local food bank before it closed. As soon as Cormier left the apartment, the woman worked her hands and feet free from the ropes, and bolted out the door and onto the street, wearing just a T-shirt and panties.
She stood in front of a Purolator courier truck to wave it down, and leapt into the passenger seat, sobbing to the driver.
"I said, 'I'm the woman that's missing. I don't know if you've heard about me.' And he said 'My God, yes. Your picture is plastered over everything.' And I said, 'Can you get me to the police station?'"
Cormier sentenced to 18 years
Cormier was convicted on July 6, 2011, of six charges, including kidnapping, sexual assault, unlawful confinement, robbery with a weapon, assault with a weapon and uttering threats. He's been sentenced to 18 years in prison. He will have to serve more than half that in a federal prison. On Sept. 5, a New Brunswick court threw out Cormier's appeal of his conviction and sentence.
Woman working hard on recovery
The woman said recovering from her ordeal has been difficult.
Initially, she was afraid to leave her own house. She has suffered from nightmares.
She admitted that until Cormier's trial was over, he was put behind bars, and his appeal was thrown out, it was difficult for her to concentrate on anything else.
But with the help of a psychiatrist, and a supportive husband and family, she says her life is gradually returning to normal.
The woman and her husband have also forged a close friendship with J.P. Thibodeau, the delivery driver who rescued her, and his wife.
She's also found a deeper appreciation for her life and the people who surround her.
"Just realizing that you've got your life back when you thought it was gone, you're just so thankful," she said.
"When I get up in the mornings, the first thing I do is thank God that I'm still here."