On February 18, Denver serial rapist Brent J. Brents nearly beat 33-year-old Tiffany Engle to death. She was his last victim—and she is also my friend.
As she came up to the driver's side window, Tiffany screamed, "I think I've been attacked. Call an ambulance." She begged him for help over and over and over in a semi-delirious panic. The only other words she said comprised a very simple question. "She asked me if her face was swollen or bruised. I didn't know what to say," Walz remembers, "so I didn't say anything."
As Walz dialed for help on his cell phone, another car pulled up. Lindsey Kruger, 25, immediately saw that something was wrong. While Walz spoke with the 911 operator, Kruger sat Tiffany down on the curb. Noticing the cold February air, Kruger ran to her car to get a blanket and wrapped it around Tiffany, who could no longer even sit up and instead lay down on the gravel.
Walz's phone call came into 911 dispatch at 5:53 p.m. In less than four minutes, Walz and Kruger heard the sirens. When paramedics arrived, they placed Tiffany on a backboard and left for Denver Health at 6:06 p.m. Shortly thereafter, Denver police cordoned off the Cheesman Park neighborhood and the manhunt for Brents began-again.
Terror in Denver
On Feb. 11, eight days before the attack on Tiffany at 1057 Marion St., convicted rapist Brent J. Brents began a weeklong charge through Denver. The city held its breath and locked its doors as women reported near-daily assaults. Police scoured the city, but searchers came up empty-handed. Police Chief Gerry Whitman went on the Today show and asked the nation to be on the lookout.
Only eight months earlier, on July 12, 2004, 36-year-old Brents had been released from the Sterling Correctional Facility after serving 16 years of a 20-year sentence for sexual assault on two Denver children in 1988.
That week in mid-February was not Brents' only criminal activity since his release. A handful of attacks from October through February were later attributed to him, but it was a report on Nov. 9 that set the stage for Brents' rampage. A woman who had dated Brents contacted police to say she believed he had sexually assaulted her 8-year-old son. Aurora police interviewed Brents about the child on Nov. 23, and though he confessed, police didn't arrest him. More than two months passed before an arrest warrant was filed. By then, Aurora police couldn't find him. Police did, however, visit Brents' Aurora townhome, where they spoke with his roommate, who then kicked Brents out. It was only hours after becoming homeless that Brents started his tear.
At 1:45 p.m. Brents broke into the home of a 29-year-old woman in the 1100 block of Adams Street and sexually assaulted her at knifepoint in her bed. At 4 p.m. he wandered into a pet shop on East Sixth Avenue. After first posing as a customer, Brents raped the 44-year-old owner. Three days later, on Valentine's Day, Brents sexually assaulted a 67-year-old woman and her two 11-year-old granddaughters near Cheesman Park. Two days after that, Brents kidnapped a 27-year-old woman, brought her to the vacant 1057 Marion St. location, and held her there for three days, repeatedly raping and assaulting her.
As Tiffany pulled up to her West City Park apartment on Feb. 17, she saw police cars and stopped to inquire. They told her to go home, lock the doors and windows, and stay inside because Brents was reportedly in the neighborhood. On the phone with her sister that night, Tiffany relayed the news about the assaults and told Cari that the man police were after could be in her backyard. Cari told her to be careful-not to go out after dark, not to go out at all if she didn't have to while a lunatic was on the loose.
The next day at about 5:30 p.m., Tiffany Engle walked into the vacant apartment on Marion Street.
The Attack, Feb. 18, just after 5:30 p.m.
He was just standing there staring at her. Except he was completely naked. The 27-year-old hostage stood in the living room just to the right. For a fleeting second Tiffany thought she'd happened upon a couple using the unoccupied apartment for a tryst. Until she looked back at Brents. The expression on his face made her skin crawl. She knew she needed to get out of the apartment and turned to run. As she dashed up the stairs she pushed the keys on her keychain up through her fingers to use as a weapon-a technique she'd learned in self-defense class a few years before.
She wasn't quick enough. Only three or four stairs from the open front door, Brents dragged her back inside, screaming. He threw her on the floor and straddled her. Tiffany screamed and kicked and threw key-filled punches, landing more than one. Undeterred, Brents shouted for the other young woman to help him hold Tiffany down, but she refused to move. Getting control of Tiffany himself, Brents then bound her wrists together with a plastic zip tie, the edges cutting into her skin. He threw her car keys to his prisoner and told her to go find Tiffany's car. Tiffany thought, Oh, man, they're gonna steal my car. I just bought that car. But thoughts of her new Mazda faded as Brents' hands tightened around her throat. He skillfully applied pressure to her carotid artery. A calm sensation washed over her and a new thought entered her mind: So this is what it's like to pass out. And then the gray curtains closed.
Grabbing one of the two-by-fours left in the apartment from the previously boarded-up windows, Brents let loose on the unconscious 33-year-old. He slammed the board into the right side of Tiffany's head. He hit her repeatedly until the cries of his hostage-begging him to stop before he killed Tiffany-interrupted him. Grabbing their clothes and the young hostage, Brents left Tiffany lying in a pool of blood and dragged his hostage out of the apartment to Tiffany's car.
Tiffany came to five to 10 minutes later. Afraid, she lay still listening for sounds of her attacker. Her only thoughts: Let him think you're unconscious. Stay still, keep your eyes closed, and don't breathe deeply.