Lessons from

It’s better to know lessons from true crimes and not need them, than to need them and not know.

Two inseparable teenage sisters, Michelle and Melissa Urbin, were walking along a country road in 1991 just outside the sleepy little town of Fenton, MI when a car passed them, then pulled over just ahead. A man got out and raised the hood, seemingly having car trouble. As the girls came near, he grabbed one and shoved her into the backseat. The other girl could’ve run away but didn't want to abandon her sister – especially when he promised he wouldn't hurt them if she'd get in the backseat too. Believing him, she got in with her sister and he soon killed them both. Leslie Allen Williams arrest and confession revealed the foul details.

If only those girls had known the Hostage/Slave lessons in Hostage Taking. They'd have known that he was using the first girl as a hostage to make the second girl his slave. They'd have known that if the second girl obeyed him – by believing the lie they desperately wanted to believe – she'd likely doom them both.

They'd have known that if the second girl had instead disobeyed him and run away for help, the monster's plan would crumble, that police would soon be mobilized, and that she could describe both him and his car. Thus, he'd likely have quickly released the first girl to expedite his flight – and face, if caught, lesser criminal charges. At least, one girl would have survived.

But whether one or both were in his backseat, lessons in Kidnap Survival would've taught them how to escape a car abduction: to immediately disrupt the car’s operation before you’re taken to a second crime scene.


A Melbourne, Australia man was watching television in his home when he was repeatedly stabbed to death. Police said it appeared the attacker surprised him, entering by a back door often left unlocked.

Unfortunately, the victim had never learned about the dangers of unlocked doors in Walk-In. Roughly half of all home invasions are through unlocked doors.


Three mistakes: A teenager in Utah stopped her car near a police blockade as an agitated man suddenly ran toward her. She assumed the police were chasing the man, but instead of driving off, she just waited as the fugitive jumped into her unlocked car. The fugitive ordered her to drive, later having her stop where he demanded the teen wait for him while he left to visit someone. Amazingly, she obediently waited for him to return! The fugitive eventually got out of the car and walked away, leaving her unharmed. She was lucky that he didn’t kill her, the only witness. She had never had the chance to learn the lessons from true crimes in Avoiding Carjacking.


He was suddenly there with a knife just inches there from her face. The teenage girl hadn’t seen anyone seconds earlier as she got into her car in her Toledo OH driveway. Jeremy Quinn, Jr., forced her over onto the floor and jumped in the driver’s seat. He drove to a wooded area and raped her.

Two lessons: She was very lucky the rapist didn’t kill his only witness. Though she did survive, she hadn’t known that being taken to a second crime scene (secluded) greatly lowers her survival odds.

Carjacking/kidnappings are very attractive to predators because they get both a car and a victim. That’s why you’re an attractive target whenever you’re in or near your car.

Always keep Pepper Spray and a Personal Security Alarm (noisemaker or screamer) at the ready while going to and from your car – whether at home, in a parking lot, or anywhere. Simply make it an automatic habit. Keep them on your key-chain and they’ll always be in-hand when you’re near your car. And keep a second pepper spray unit readily available inside your car (when your first unit is with your key in the ignition). Also see Parking Lot Safety.

Carrying pepper spray – shoulder-high and visible – may well have deterred that girl’s attacker. Or she could have sprayed him when he appeared – while blaring her car’s horn. Most predators will not continue a crime when witnesses may be alerted, and will simply flee.

Will a gunman shoot you in a populated area where he dreads witnesses? Will you force him to shoot if you resist or run away? According to "Tough Target" by Detective Lt. J.J. Bittenbinder, there's a 12 percent chance he'll shoot at you, a 6 percent chance of actually hitting you, and a 3 percent chance it'll be fatal. But think about it, if he is willing to shoot you there, he’s likely willing to do worse at a second crime scene where you're fully at his mercy. Those are your odds – use your intuition to decide whether to obey or get away. See the lessons from true crimes in Kidnapping Escape.

OR, once the girl was kidnapped, she could’ve caused the car to crash long before he got her to a secluded place. From the car's floor, she's perfectly positioned to deliver Defensive Ground Kicks as described in Fighting Options - Strategies. Also see the lessons from true crimes in Kidnap Survival.


An Australian woman was riding her bicycle when a 14-year-old boy rode up behind her and stole her purse from her carrier rack. She pursued him. After catching up with him, she was punched in the face and violently raped.

Unfortunately, the victim didn’t know that, in the heat of the moment, you might reflexively – and foolishly – fight for what is rightfully yours. Decide now to give up your valuables to avoid violence, then – before the crime gets worse – instantly flee to safety while yelling for the police. Fight, maybe, only to avoid rape, assault, or abduction. See the lessons in Victim’s Options Overview.


Brenda Turner was about to enter her car parked outside the Denver CO store she’d just left. A gunman grabbed her purse. They struggled and Turner was knocked down. Store employee Matt Casias ran out and slammed the robber against a car. Then BANG! Casias was shot in the chest, but survived.

Ms Turner risked a serious head injury by being knocked to the ground. Had she learned lessons from true crimes in Purse Snatching, she’d have known to simply give up her purse.

Her valiant rescuer almost died, too. But had he learned the lessons in Rescuing a Victim Safely, he’d have known of a less risky and possibly more effective strategy in a populated area: make lots of noise from a safe distance, and yell repeatedly for someone to call the cops while pointing at the crime scene. Many criminals simply flee from such a situation.


A burglar confessed to a long list of past burglaries. In one, he was burgling a residence he’d thought was unoccupied when he encountered a woman. After subduing and binding her, he continued the burglary. When a second woman came home he did the same to her. But she was outraged, swearing she’d never forget his face and threatening to hunt him down and get her revenge. He told police, “So I had to kill them both.” It was the only time he’d been violent.

True crime lessons teach crime prevention strategies for saving your life.

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