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Abduction the minivan mu.., p.3
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       ABDUCTION: The Minivan Murders: Killer Couple Michelle Michaud and James Daveggio, p.3

           R. J. Parker
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  As the victims began to traverse across state lines, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was brought into the investigation. Special Agent Lynn J. Ferrin immediately went to work, along with his team of detectives and criminalist Renee Romero. The criminalist was well versed in DNA samples and evidence checking, which is how he discovered that the male assailant who assaulted Rodriguez had either undergone a vasectomy or suffered from a medical condition.

  While evidence collection was going on, Michaud and Daveggio struck again. This time the victim was a family member who also became a prime witness in the investigation later on. On November 18, 1997, a Sacramento police officer received a call that two girls had been molested and assaulted by a couple in a green minivan.

  This was perhaps the beginning of the end for the serial killers. Baker revealed the names of the assailant and even confirmed that she heard Michaud admit to the rape of Juanita Rodriguez. The officer who took their statements looked up the names against previous charges and discovered that both Michaud and Daveggio had been arrested more than once. Upon further questioning, the whereabouts of the lethal pair remained unknown as they were living in their minivan and constantly moving from one place to another.

  However, this was considered a major breakthrough in the case as the police now knew whom they were hunting for. Despite the efforts of the authorities and investigators, they could not prevent what was about to happen next.

  The horror that unfolded on December 2, 1997, will go down as one of the worst setbacks in the progress of humanity. While Samson’s murder led to an end of the three-month-long crime spree, it also reminded the people that there was an endless pit of darkness, which could have claimed any one of them. Vanessa Samson was a native of Pleasanton, California, where Daveggio had spent most of his adult life. The duo had returned to the town as it seemed target-rich around Thanksgiving. Parking their minivan near a high school, the serial killers went out looking for their next victim. Temporarily, they were forced to move away as a teacher caught them around campus and raised an alarm.

  During this time, an arrest warrant was issued for both Michelle Michaud and James Daveggio in multiple cases of assault and rape. Yet the authorities closed in a little too late. They could not save Vanessa Samson’s life as she became their next and final victim before they were arrested by the police.

  The couple had become more and more erratic due to heavy drug abuse. They were making mistakes, which led the police toward closing in on them by the minute. As the chase was on, Daveggio decided that he could wait no longer to find the next victim. He sent Michaud on a lookout again and proceeded to purchase various tools that he would use to torture Samson before killing her.

  While Vanessa Samson’s murder is what led to justice being served, it was the information given by Rodriguez which led the authorities to two of the deadliest criminal's at the time. They not only raped several innocent victims, but as the case progressed and more details came forward it was revealed that their involvement in various other abductions and assaults was also possible. Speculation arose that both Michaud and Daveggio had been behind the disappearance of Jaycee Lee Dugard with a witness putting the former at the scene of the crime.

  There were a few unsolved cases, which could well be closed if they were connected to the victims, and it looked very likely they had taken more victims than the ones who had come forward.

  During their trial, it was established that the couple had raped and assaulted six known victims, all of them young girls. The crime spree was such that it spared no one who was deemed a suitable victim. As investigators delved into the details of each crime, they unraveled more horrors. It was evident that the pair was one of the deadliest criminal partnerships to have struck across the country.

  Before Daveggio and Michaud, the Federal Bureau of Investigation had come across a similar couple who wreaked havoc within the same vicinity. The Sacramento and Nevada authorities could never forget Gerald and Charlene Gallego, both of whom were responsible for the sexual torture and murder of eleven girls. Daveggio had, in fact, been inspired by the serial rapist and killer. Studying Gallego's crime spree during the 1980s, the authorities found striking similarities between their victims and those of Michaud and Daveggio. Just as Gerald Gallego had convinced his partner Charlene to get on board with his gruesome and vicious plans, James Daveggio followed suit. He brought out the worst in Michaud, and her darker side eventually took over.

  She joined her boyfriend on a long spree of torture, assault, rape and then murder. While the serial raping and killing couple drew comparisons with Gerald and Charlene Gallego on the basis of a similar mode of operation, they managed to leave their own mark on the criminal history of California and Nevada.

  In the late 1970s, Gerald Gallego came across Charlene at a poker club in Sacramento and the two soon began to date. Both were into recreational drugs and did not shy away from a wild experience every now and then. After living together for a short span of time, Gallego began to find their sex life dull and monotonous. His partner did not excite him anymore and thus began his search for something more stimulating. Whether Charlene was aware of his sexual fantasies from before is unknown; however, the investigation did bring to light details of Gallego's violent sexual preferences.

  Drugs played a very important role in the couple’s lives and fueled Gallego's erratic behavior. When Charlene got pregnant, Gerald Gallego decided that it was time to put into play his twisted fantasies. He convinced his partner to lure over innocent young victims so that he could satisfy his raging desire. Both Charlene and Gallego would scout targets at various places such as malls and restaurants, after which the former would invite them in under false pretenses. They too operated out of a van where Gerald Gallego would torture and assault his victims.

  Their murderous crime spree claimed the lives of eleven innocent girls, who were also subjected to sexual slavery. After raping and murdering two teenagers in California, Gerald Gallego found himself being pursued by authorities as their bodies were discovered at a farm where he had been seen by a witness. Soon afterwards, Gallego's daughter also came forward with a molestation claim against her father. While an arrest warrant was issued for him, the police did not find the murderous two till after they had left a trail of eight more victims in their wake. They constantly were bouncing from one place to another, which made it difficult for the authorities to track them down in the 1980s.

  Finally, Gallego and Charlene fled to Reno, Nevada, and married under an alias. 1984 was the year which saw the deadly killing duo caught and convicted after claiming numerous victims in California and Nevada. After their trial, Gerald Gallego was sentenced to death for the atrocities committed while his partner Charlene was awarded prison time. The jury determined that, in light of all the facts and evidence, the woman had been a mere pawn in Gallego's evil schemes and had not actually participated in the torture or sexual acts. Hence, she was handed out a sentence for sixteen years and eight months in a Nevada prison.

  Analysts and investigators found that, when it came to choosing their victims and torturing them, James Anthony Daveggio and Michelle Michaud mirrored Gallego and Charlene. The serial raping and killing of Daveggio and Michaud went after unsuspecting young girls from California and Nevada. While they only murdered their last victim, the assault and physical torture inflicted upon the other girls was very similar to Gallego’s method.

  Despite that, James Daveggio and Michelle Michaud could not have been more different than Gerald and Charlene Gallego when it came to relationship dynamics. Most psychological experts were of the opinion that Michaud was the dominant one in the partnership. Whilst Charlene had played the role of a bystanding accomplice, Michelle was an equal partner in every sexual assault which had been carried out.

  According to a statement made by the investigating officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) later on, it was the ‘first of its kind' case where a woman partner had “allegedly taken an equal rol
e in a series of sexual assaults.” Charlene Gallego was merely an ‘enabler’ but not Michelle Michaud, who could never be pushed into the background by a man. Daveggio and Michaud’s seventeen-year-old victim Patty Wilson somehow confirmed that when she was lured into the van and captured; her assailant was, in fact, Michaud and not Daveggio since he could not perform at the time.

  Further details surfaced and revealed that Michaud was the one who threatened all their victims before letting them go. She would warn them not to go ‘somewhere alone’ because they wouldn’t be ‘so lucky again’ the next time. The young girls would be absolutely terrified and would refrain from even telling anyone the details of the incident. It was already established that Daveggio and Michaud carried a weapon with them, which had been witnessed by both Patty Wilson and Juanita Rodriguez.

  The other victims also knew that they were armed and could kill them at any time, which is why the young women usually complied with their acts of atrocities. Juanita Rodriguez recounted the ordeal to the authorities later on, and her sheer terror was evident in each detail. Unfortunately, this was one thing that she could never erase from her mind. The incident had to be retold quite a few times: to the medical staff at the hospital who examined her with a standard rape kit procedure to gather evidence, then to the detectives, as well as the federal authorities. Rodriguez had to relive the horrors of that night more than once, and that thought alone was enough to send shivers down everyone’s spine.

  However, despite the terrible ordeal she went through, Juanita Rodriguez’s bravery was what led to them being eventually captured. Detective Desiree Carrington of Placer County was key to closing this case. After meeting Rodriguez, she knew immediately that they were not going to stop at one victim and that the police department had another Gallego-like case on their hands. Carrington was very understanding and sympathetic towards Rodriguez’s ordeal, but she knew that no matter how traumatic the rape incident, every minute detail had to be collected. Preserving any sense of modesty on the victim’s part would only hurt their investigation and allow the man and woman to roam free.

  Carrington, her partner Bill Summers and FBI agents immediately went to work around the area looking for any evidence or suspicious people. The investigating teams knew that time was of the essence as they realized the pair could strike anywhere and at any time. Special Agent Lynn J. Ferrin, who had come across a lot of these cases during his long career in law enforcement, recognized that solving the case was not going to be an easy task. After hearing about the rape incident, Agent Ferrin had wasted no time in contacting Juanita Rodriguez and conducting an extensive interview with her.

  Rodriguez told him that the couple had several personal items and sleeping bags stashed away in their van. This was one factor that worried Agent Ferrin somewhat as he realized that not having a permanent address made it all the more challenging for the authorities to track down the assailants. The couple were on the move constantly and could be anywhere across state lines. However, the agent was very well trained in handling violent crimes, particularly Title 18 offences that focus on abductions and sexual abuse. He knew that he would have to inspect every nook and cranny to find this deadly couple.

  Juanita Rodriguez revealed that whilst she was desperately trying to keep herself alive, she attempted to engage the couple in conversation to gain their sympathy. She said that the man had a fondness for one particular Johnny Cash song. When she asked what it was based upon, his reply chilled her to the bone. Her male assailant described the song as being one about a man who shot and killed a man from Reno just so he could ‘watch him die.’ Rodriguez instantly knew that she could meet a similar fate if she didn’t do something fast.

  She made up a story and lied that her nine month old baby would be alone in the world if she was killed. Somehow, the woman assailant took mercy upon her and decided to let her go. Rodriguez was warned not to turn around and to keep walking for twenty minutes. Analysts and investigating authorities assessed from the details she revealed that Michelle Michaud was the dominant figure in the couple’s relationship. Juanita Rodriguez had stated that when the man got tired of abusing her, he seemed almost remorseful but was very clear that he did not mean to ‘take her back’ as she might 'do something stupid.’ However, after she kept on begging and promising that she wouldn’t, he turned to the woman driver to ask what they should do with their victim; surprisingly, she said that they should ‘let her go.’

  Similar to Rodriguez’s ordeal was Patty Wilson’s night of horror. She had been lured into the van by Michaud under the pretense of doing a ‘line of meth’ together. Wilson was already familiar with the man and woman as she had seen them around the area quite a few times. However, what followed was something that she could not have imagined even in her most fearful nightmare.

  As soon as she entered the green minivan, Wilson was punched by Daveggio and knocked out cold. Much later, she recalled the physical impact of the hit, which caused her to ‘see stars’ and pass out for almost five minutes. While the perpetrators subjected Wilson to assault, the male assailant could not perform sexually and backed out of raping her. The terrified girl recounted that she had told Daveggio how the entire ordeal was reminiscent of her stepfather’s abuse. Apparently, this killed the man’s mood and he moved away. However, Wilson still had much more to endure. The man called out to the woman, who wanted ‘her turn’ since he wanted nothing to do with her anymore. Hence, the girl was subjected to rape at the hands of the woman driver after she parked the minivan in the hills near Livermore, which is a town close to Pleasanton, California.

  By the end of the ordeal, Wilson was almost convinced that she was going to die. The couple had stated that they could not drop her back to where she worked as it could be risky. They did not want to end up in jail.

  She begged them to let her go and promised that she would lie to her manager, making up a false story as to what happened. Wilson told them that her manager would call the authorities as she was not the kind of person to take off from work like that, and when the police came, she would lie to them as well.

  The couple drove around contemplating what to do and finally decided that they would let her go. However, the false story came from them. Wilson was told that after she went back, she would say that three teenage boys kidnapped her from the parking lot of the gaming arcade where she worked. She also had to elaborate that the boys raped her at the hills and then dropped her off. Patty Wilson agreed to everything and in return was let off at a gas station situated on Dublin Boulevard. She called the manager from the gas station and repeated the exact same story about being raped by three teenage boys.

  While her manager believed the fake story, the Dublin police who had been informed of the incident found it greatly distorted. They were skeptical about its authenticity but did not manage to get anything further from seventeen-year-old Patty Wilson. The girl was well aware that her assailants were deadly; she had seen a gun in the passenger seat as well. She knew that the couple had her residence details and could kill her at any time if she revealed any mention of them.

  There was no doubt in her or the authorities’ minds that this was a dangerous, armed, and out-of-control pair of serial rapists. Nobody in their path was safe, and until they were caught, everything had to be done to keep the victims safe.

  The Events of December 2, 1997

  Much has been said and written about the events leading up to and on December 2, 1997. This was when finally they claimed the life of an innocent 22-year-old girl, Vanessa Lei Samson. The horrors are such that neither the authorities and nor the victim’s family and friends will ever be able to suppress the incident’s memory. This was the time when investigating officials and the police were already closing in on the two. Their crime spree had continued across the states of Nevada and California, but the authorities were now finally on the trail of the suspects.

  Vanessa Lei Samson

  An arrest warrant had been issued for both Michaud and Daveggio.
From September to December, the deadly couple had taken five known victims, and Vanessa would be their sixth.

  It was as if nothing mattered anymore. All hell had broken loose.

  Vanessa Lei Samson was a lively and cheerful young girl who still lived with her family and was close to all her siblings. She was studying at the Ohlone College and saving up for further tuition. Her hopes and dreams were brutally snatched away from her as she became James Daveggio and Michelle Michaud’s latest victim. However, unlike the prior ones, Samson was not lucky enough to escape with her life.

  By picking out Vanessa Samson, the couple changed from their usual victimization. They did not abduct her from a dark alley or in the night from a far-fetched place. Surprisingly enough, her kidnapping occurred in the morning hours and within a fairly populated area.

  James Anthony Daveggio and Michelle Michaud were on the lookout for a new victim. Later, in the trial, it was revealed that the sadistic couple termed their excursions as ‘hunts’ and ‘adventures.’ Michaud described the rapes and torture inflicted upon each victim as an ‘adventure,’ while Daveggio chose to refer to the escapades as ‘huntings.’ It was evident that they both found it quite thrilling.

  The couple had been scouting the grounds of a high school in Pleasanton, California, when a teacher found their presence suspicious and they were forced to move away. It was presumed that they chose such places as they were target-rich and young girls could be easily picked up without raising any alarm. By an unfortunate twist of fate, Vanessa Samson showed up on their radar, and what followed was one of the most brutally executed crimes in the history of the United States.

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