RACINE CO. (WITI) — It has been 10 years since a Racine County woman, Teri Jendusa Nicolai, was abducted, beaten and left for dead in a freezing storage locker. Now an advocate against domestic violence, Jendusa Nicolai spoke with FOX6 News about her survival milestone.
Jendusa Nicolai divorced her husband, David Larsen, on January 31st, 2001.
“He walked up to me and said ‘you’re going to regret this,’” recalled Jendusa Nicolai.
Exactly three years later, she realized just what her ex-husband had meant by that statement. Larsen, armed with a baseball bat, bound the woman with duct tape, stuffed her into a garbage can and left her for dead in an Illinois storage locker.
During the 26 hours that followed, Jendusa Nicolai suffered severe frostbite to her feet. The mother of two says she prepared herself for death, but thoughts of seeing her children again kept her going.
“I was just really trying not to go to sleep,” said Jendusa Nicolai.
Police were able to track down Larsen and eventually rescue the woman. Larsen is serving time in a super-max prison after an attempted escape. Jendusa Nicolai says she has not talked to her ex-husband since the day he tried to kill her.
“I don’t know if I can say I’ve gotten to the point where I can say I’ve forgiven him, but I’ve gotten to the point where I can say what I hope for him is that he changes his mind and he changes his heart toward God,” said Jendusa Nicolai.
The same tragedy that almost ended her life helped Jendusa Nicolai realize a gift she could give to others. The woman became an advocate for domestic violence victims, speaking out to change laws.
“I’m just your neighbor. I’m from your neighborhood. I was educated, I went to college, I had a very good family yet I fell into this,” said Jendusa Nicolai.
The woman’s ten-year story of survival was honored Friday, January 31st by one of the lead investigators on her case at the time. Christopher Schmaling is now the Racine County Sheriff.
For the past ten years, Racine County officials have worked with Jendusa Nicolai to get more resources for domestic violence victims, a better victim notification system to keep them aware of an attacker’s location and laws to protect victims.
If you or someone you know needs help related to domestic violence, call the Sojourner Family Peace Center at 414-933-2722 or the Women’s Center at 262-542-3828.