Can You Imagine Being the Lone Survivor of a Serial Killer? Holly Dunn Pendleton Can

"You know if you can get yourself untied get away, run away," said Holly Dunn Pendleton's boyfriend as they were tied up.

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

May 9 2024, Published 10:24 p.m. ET

According to CBS News in August 1997, University of Kentucky student Chad Goetz was up late studying when he saw something shocking outside his window. He almost couldn't believe what he was seeing as a girl covered in blood, walked through the senior's front yard. Goetz would later say her face reminded him of a boxer's after a match, such was the severity of her injuries. Without thinking, Goetz brought the young woman into his home and proceeded to dial 9-1-1.

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The girl on Goetz's couch was also a student at the University of Kentucky and while it didn't seem so at the moment, she was extremely lucky. As they waited for paramedics to arrive, the girl mumbled, "My friend's still out there. Be sure they know my friend's still out there." What happened to Holly Dunn Pendleton on that warm Kentucky night? She survived a serial killer.

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What happened to Holly Dunn Pendleton? She lived to tell the tale.

It was only the second night of classes when Pendleton and her boyfriend Chris Maier decided to head to an off-campus party. Bored by the festivities, they decided to load up a backpack with beers and head down to the train tracks. They sat for a while talking and drinking before getting up to return to the party. Walking along the tracks they were stopped by a man who stepped out from behind an electrical box. He asked them for money but as Pendleton put it, they were two poor college students.

Suddenly the man had a weapon and was using it to threaten Maier. After forcing him down to his hands and knees, the stranger went through Maier's backpack. What he was really doing was using the straps of the backpack to tie Maier's hands behind his back. The assailant then removed Pendleton's belt and did the same with her hands. "I'm going to die," Pendleton thought.

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Their attacker ripped up a shirt and gagged them both though Pendleton was able to stick her tongue out and keep the cloth out of her mouth. She kept asking what he wanted, but the man remained silent. When he walked back towards the train tracks, Pendleton was able to unbind her hands though she couldn't free her feet. She ripped off Maier's gag at which point he looked at her and said, "You know if you can get yourself untied get away, run away."

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Unfortunately, that never happened. When the man returned he was carrying a huge rock that he dropped on Maier's head. Turning to Pendleton the stranger climbed on top of her. She immediately knew he was going to rape her and fought like hell, but he stabbed her neck with this weapon. "Look how easily I could kill you," he whispered. Begging for her life, Pendleton tried to remember every detail in case she lived. When he began hitting her with a board, Pendleton lost consciousness. Eventually, he left.

The killer, Rafael Resendez Ramirez, was eventually indentified.

Pendleton had a broken eye socket as well as a broken jaw. Unfortunately Maier didn't live, which crushed Pendleton. She kept thinking how unfair it was that she survived. Little did she know, she would be the only one. Thanks to her quick-thinking, Pendleton was able to provide police with a detailed description of the man who attacked them. Authorities also had a DNA sample from the rape and were able to put it into the National Database for Violent Offenders.

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A little over a year later, someone from the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP) called the Kentucky detective who worked on Pendleton's case. "Listen, we've had another homicide near railroad tracks in Texas," they said. It was tenuous but worth looking into. After comparing details about the two cases, the detectives deduced it was a serial killer. Fingerprints were used to identify the killer who was a man named Rafael Resendez Ramirez.

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Because most of Ramirez's murders occurred near train tracks, he was nicknamed "The Railroad Killer." He was added to the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List, which turned the search into a national hunt for the serial killer. Two years after Pendleton and Maier were attacked, a tip that came into America's Most Wanted helped catch Ramirez.

His trial began in May 2000, nearly three years after Pendleton was brutally attacked. Pendleton testified at the trial and the night before, she woke up screaming and crying. He was found guilty and sentenced to death, which was carried out in June 2006. Years later, Pendleton wrote a book about her experience. She got married and had children, one of whom she named William Christopher, in honor of Maier. "I definitely feel like I have another opportunity at life. I wanna live it to the fullest," she said.

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