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July 15, 2008

By Angie Rice

(Missouri, July 11, 2008: Special to SHE magazine) As a former reporter and freelance writer, I have written my fair share of headlines. Some good, some bad. Yet as I look back on the past year, I cannot help but contemplate the anniversary of my own headline in The Cuba Free-Press in Cuba, Mo. The headline stated: "Former TRP reporter survives stabbing." Reading it even now almost feels like I am reading it about someone else and not myself.

The lead of the story written by Chris Case was straightforward enough: "Former Three Rivers Publishing reporter Angie Fodge is recovering from the stab wounds she received last week during a violent knife attack by her husband. The woman was seriously injured in the attack, but miraculously did not suffer any permanent or life-threatening wounds."

It was a beautiful morning in Cuba on July 27. Although sad, I was packing up and moving back home to Southeast Missouri. It was the place I had called home since I was young. My husband and I had discussed the matter, and he seemed fine with the idea. He was a truck driver and could live anywhere. My 3-year-old daughter was happy because she would be closer to her father, my ex-husband. We had just settled an almost-two-year custody battle, and we were looking forward to the prospects ahead.

That morning my husband was eager to help load the car for us. He had been home for a week and was scheduled to go back out on his truck for a little while longer. The week had been rough. He had come home and threatened to kill me on Wednesday. We had been arguing a lot. But I had somehow settled him down and thought if I could get him back on the truck on Friday, all would be well.

I was wrong.

As we were driving to a local truck stop, my then-husband drove past it without saying a word. I asked him where we were going, while I had my finger on the button to roll down the window. I was scared. This was not the first time he had threatened my life. I was so tired that morning of struggling with him all week and hoping and praying that everything would be OK.

As he drove with my little girl asleep in the back seat, he looked over at me and told me he bought a machete at Wal-Mart the day before and that he was going to kill me because I was a "[screw]-up."

He looked at me and hit me in the face.

I reached for my cell phone and began dialing 911. He pulled out a 4-inch serrated-blade pocketknife. It was one I had bought him for Christmas. He started cutting little places in my hand, while he pried the phone from it. He threw the phone out the window.

What happened next seems like a blur. The news report stated he stabbed me several times in the back, head and neck. One of the places he stabbed me was in my right temple. That must have been the last place because he said, "You're dead. You're already dead, and you don't even know it."

The news report said, "The couple's three-year-old daughter was asleep in the back seat of the car at the time of the stabbing."

She woke up but stayed quiet. Later she would tell me she played hide-and-seek because she was scared. At the time I fought my husband because I knew I had to try to stay alive for her.

As he stabbed me the last time, I felt dizzy. I slumped over the side of the seat I was in. There was blood everywhere. The next thing I knew he was turning the car around and telling me he had to take me to the hospital. The report said when he realized what happened he dialed 911 from his cell phone. Luckily, we had more than one in the car that morning. He told the dispatcher he had stabbed his wife and was driving her to the local hospital. It was 16 miles away. Then he looked at me. "I am sorry, baby. I will get you to the hospital. I am going to jail, but you are going to live."

We pulled into the emergency room and a nurse came and put me in a wheelchair. I screamed for them to take care of my daughter and someone said she would be OK.

I was admitted and prepped for surgery following questioning by the police. The surgery was really just exploratory to stitch my wounds and make sure there was no permanent damage. I had lost a lot of blood, but luckily there was not permanent damage. I woke up after coming out of surgery in tears as a child who has awoken from a nightmare would. Some days I still feel the exact same way.

My now ex-husband was taken away by the Crawford County sheriff's deputies. He was later charged with first-degree domestic assault with serious intent to harm and armed criminal action. If convicted, he faces up to 10 to 30 years on the assault charge and a minimum of three years on the armed criminal action charge.

Reports say he said he didn't remember anything. He had a long history of mental illness. I wasn't sure, but I thought he probably had stopped taking his medication for bipolar disorder. But I always thought I could help him if I loved him enough. I was wrong.

The police had confiscated the car and found the weapon. A friend of mine graciously had the car cleaned for me before I picked it back up. There was no trace of the incident that had occurred.

I was released from the hospital the following day. My father from Vanduser, Mo., and his wife had come to pick me up and bring me home. I could not have survived the first week home without them. They offered me solitude and a place to heal away from all the chaos.

Although the police had found the knife I was stabbed with, they had neglected to search the entire car. A month later as I was unpacking groceries, I found a Wal-Mart bag with a receipt dated July 26, 2007. It listed razors, soap and machete as items that had been purchased. As I looked further in the trunk, I found the new machete that my now ex-husband had planned to kill me with.

Although my wounds healed within a matter of months, the nightmares come sometimes even now. I sought help from counselors, friends and support from the Safe House for Women outreach office in Cape Girardeau. Some days are better than others. I will read another headline or see something on the news that will remind me of the incident, and it will bring it all back.

Today, I am still a freelance reporter and my daughter is happier and healthier than ever. I have just received a scholarship from the Allstate Foundation to go back to college with the assistance of Betty Brown and Linda Garner of the Safe House for Women. I plan to use this experience to pursue a career helping others who have gone through similar situations. Life is looking up.

I have made a choice to move forward with my life for myself and my daughters. On my way to the hospital that day, I prayed that God would let me live so I could teach my daughters not to make the same choices I did. The man who tried to take my life sits in the Crawford County Jail awaiting trial.

This year I have talked with many in the criminal justice field who refer to people like me as a victim. I have started correcting them and saying I am not a victim anymore but a survivor. So this year, on July 27, I will celebrate being a survivor. I will not take life for granted, and I will resolve to tell my story to those who may need to hear it. I know I am not the only one with a story to tell.

Editor's note: Read the full account from Angie Rice and more stories about local women in the Summer 2008 issue of SHE magazine, coming July 20 in the Southeast Missourian.