SARDINIA, N.Y. (WIVB) — “It’s just a house, it doesn’t even look the same. I drive by and don’t recognize it.”
But Ramona Bantle-Fahy will always remember what the house in Sardinia looked like 24 years ago because it was the house on Middle Road where a stranger beat her, raped her, and kidnapped her.
“He didn’t disguise himself, He seemed like a regular person who would be looking to buy a house,” she recalls.
Ramona was a 33 year old real estate agent in 1992. The house was for sale and she took a call from a man who wanted to see the house on a Sunday afternoon. She went to meet him alone.
“He punched me, jumped on me, pulled my hands behind my back, said ‘don’t scream I have a knife,’ and tied me, (my) hands.”
The man sexually assaulted Ramona, then pushed her down a flight and a half of stairs and shoved her into the trunk of his car. Inside that dark trunk, with the car moving, Ramona worked feverishly to get her hands free. She used a lighter in her pocket to look around the trunk and went to work trying to open the trunk lock.
She pulled off her Buffalo Bills watch and found a hiding place for it in the trunk. “Because they would never find me,” she remembers when asked why she hid the watch. “No one would ever find me.”
Within minutes, Ramona picked open the trunk lock and opened the trunk enough to recognize a stretch of Route 16 in the Village of Delevan. When the car slowed a bit, she jumped out onto the pavement and ran into a nearby trailer park for help. The attacker stopped the car and ran after her, but lost sight of Ramona in the trailer park.
By the next day a composite sketch of the suspect and a description of his car were broadcast across Western New York. Acting on tips, police arrested 30 year old David Graczyk. who lived near the crime scene.
Police found Ramona’s watch in the trunk.
Graczyk had a prior conviction for making obscene phone calls and breaking into a Lancaster home to steal women’s underwear. He was also a state prison guard.
David Gracyk pleaded guilty to 8 counts against him, including rape, kidnapping, and sexual abuse.
And Ramona did a remarkable thing at his sentencing in 1993. She stood up in court with television cameras rolling and described her nightmare.
“I prayed to God, please don’t hurt me. He was enraged, angry, violent, evil. I feared for my life.”
Justice Mario Rosetti listened to Ramona and referred to the letters of many other local realtors who described the fear they felt on the job because of Graczyk’s actions. He sentenced Graczyk to 67 to 114 years in prison. But because of a sentencing statute, the prison term became 25 to 50 years.
Ramona remembers what the Judge said in court to Graczyk. “Why would you put her in the trunk other than to get rid of the witness? Then no one could testify against you.”
This month, Ramona is preparing a victim impact statement because her attacker, now in Attica prison, is up for parole in February. The possibility that he could walk free terrifies her.
“Totally fearful, yes,” she says when asked if she is afraid of him.
Ramona is now asking other women who wrote and expressed fear to the Judge back in 1993, as well as any other people who have been affected emotionally by the attack, to write about those fears today to the parole board deciding his fate.
“To write letters to the parole board of how he affected their lives.”
Ramona says she often hears about other women who have changed their activities and even their careers because of what happened to her.
She believes she has a responsibility to other women and has made a determined choice to speak out on behalf of women who have been victims of violent crime and to stand strong without guilt or shame.
“I’m speaking for all the women and children that were victims of these crimes because I can. It isn’t easy, but I’m strong — strong enough. And, he picked the wrong girl.”
To write to the Parole Board: NYS Dept of Corrections & Community Supervision, Office of Victim Assistance, 1220 Washington Ave., Bldg. 2, Albany, NY 142226-2050.
To make your statement over the phone you may call: (518) 445-6161 or 1-800-783-6059
Find more information on the Dept. of Corrections website:http://www.doccs.ny.gov/VictimSvc/victimimpactrequest.html