(Caroline Egger/Daily News via the AP)
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) – In August 1997, Holly K. Dunn was walking along railroad tracks at night near the University of Kentucky with her boyfriend Chris Maier.
From the darkness, a man appeared and then bound and gagged the couple. He killed Maier with a rock.
Dunn was stabbed in the neck, raped and beaten with a blunt object.
“It was so surreal,” Dunn said at the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center. “I cannot tell you how naive I was. I was living my life thinking nothing bad could happen to me.”
After a warning to the audience, Dunn displayed a photo of herself taken at the hospital after the assault. Her blonde hair was fully crimson, and her face was streaked with lesions. Her eye socket and jaw were broken.
“I think he thought he killed me,” Dunn said.
Dunn survived – and she became the only known survivor of Angel Maturino Resendiz, the infamous “Railroad Killer.”
After physically healing, Dunn decided to live in an apartment by herself during college – but she had friends spend the night often, and she slept with a butcher knife nearby.
She studied in England for a couple of months because “I couldn’t be in the U.S.,” she said.
She signed up for self-defense lessons. “I’m (a) big proponent of self-defense,” said Dunn, who wishes she had the training to potentially fight off her assailant. Unlike a concealed weapon or a 6-foot-5-inch boyfriend, “you always have your body.”
Initially, Dunn didn’t share her story with the media, but then realized the real story would never be told if she didn’t share it.
“This grew into something I never expected,” Dunn said, “that I would be the only survivor of one of his attacks.”
Resendiz murdered people near railroads, often in people’s homes, with items such as an antique flat iron, a piece of plywood, tire rim and a sledgehammer. Once on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” list, Resendiz was suspected in at least 23 murders across the U.S. and Mexico in the late 1980s and 1990s. He was convicted of murder and later executed by lethal injection in 2006.
“I had no opinions about the death penalty before this happened,” Dunn said. “I feel like the death penalty was justice in my case.”
After painfully sharing her testimony in court in 1999, it was years before Resendiz died. During that time, Dunn feared he would escape – although irrational, it was her experience. “I’m glad that he is not in the world anymore,” she said.
Following the ordeal, Dunn found new strength and decided to share her story to schools, women’s events and before judicial panels.
“I’ve been able to spread the message of awareness,” she said.
In 2008, Dunn founded a nonprofit called Holly’s House in Evansville, Ind. The nonprofit provides a safe place for both child and adult victims of intimate crimes to tell their stories and get connected to resources.
In 2017, Dunn authored “Sole Survivor: The Inspiring True Story of Coming Face to Face with the Infamous Railroad Killer.”
When sharing her story at SKyPAC, Dunn emphasized that she’s truly a survivor.
She’s married, has two kids, and answered a calling to protect others.
“I did have this horrible thing happen, but I did get through it, and I live a happy life,” Dunn said.
Laura Howard of Glasgow found the talk very motivating.
“It was absolutely awesome,” she said.
Howard came with a fellow Sunday school teacher and two high school-age girls from their church.
“We felt like it was the appropriate age for them to be aware that bad things can happen,” she said.
Tracy Oliver of Scottsville appreciated that Dunn transformed a negative experience into something positive.
“I think she’s a role model,” Oliver said.
Jenny Paull Blankenship, also of Scottsville, said that as a mother of a college-age daughter, the scenario was unimaginable.
“It’s very eye-opening,” Blankenship said.
The Women’s Fund of Southern Kentucky sponsored the event.