The slight blonde woman who greets me warmly at the door of her suburban Cincinnati home this breezy Thursday morning quickly offers me a cup of coffee and a seat at her kitchen table. Her husband, Brad, is taking care of their children, she assures me, so it's a kid-free zone. As we make small talk, Debbie, author of Forgiving the Dead Man Walking (Zondervan), casually mentions how she stashes all her Creative Memories paraphernalia in an upstairs "messy" bedroom. The poignancy of that imageDebbie devotedly documenting happy times in albums for Conner, 4, and Courtney, 1floors me. After all, Debbie, 35, has spent the last 19 years of her life overcoming some of the most horrific memories imaginable.
At age 16, Debbie (then Cuevas) of Madisonville, Louisiana, and her boyfriend, Mark Brewster, were sitting in a parked car one hot summer night when they were abducted at gunpoint by career criminals Robert Willie and Joe Vaccaro. Several hours into the kidnapping, a gun-whipped Mark was led into deserted woods near the Alabama state line, tortured, shot, slashed, and left for dead. But the ride of terror continued for Debbie, who never knew from moment to moment if she would live or die. For a total of 30 hours, Debbie was repeatedly raped by her captors. Throughout that time, she also picked up some chilling clues that led her to believe they had brutally murdered a young woman several days beforeFaith Hathaway.1