She was stronger than him, she told her rapist when she confronted him in court.
She needed a ride home during an early morning in August 2017. She accepted one from Dontay Lavarice Reese, and then endured 12 hours of kidnap and torture until she was finally able to escape.
Two years later, she faced Reese in a federal courtroom on Tuesday after he pleaded guilty in February to kidnapping her.
"You were physically stronger than me," she said, struggling often to get the words out through tears. Nearly the entire courtroom wept with her. "But I never gave up."
The Star Tribune generally does not name sexual-assault victims.
Federal Judge Patrick Schiltz sentenced Reese to 27 years in prison, an amount agreed on in a plea deal that spared the victim from a trial. Schiltz said he wanted to give him more.
"If the parties had not reached an agreement … I would have sentenced him to much more than 324 months in prison," Schiltz said from the bench. He added: "Mr. Reese is extremely dangerous and the public needs to be protected from him."
Reese, of Burnsville, had one of the worst criminal records Schiltz said he had ever seen, noting that Reese had been convicted of 34 crimes as an adult and several as a juvenile, including an assault when he was 13. In 2003, Reese was convicted of felony criminal sexual conduct in Minnesota in a case similar to the one he was sentenced for Tuesday, in which he kidnapped a woman needing a ride home and raped her.
The woman in the courtroom knew none of that when she needed a ride home two years ago. She had been with friends, but she got separated from them and stranded in downtown Minneapolis. One had her cellphone, so she couldn't call for a ride.
Reese was with two other people when he offered her a ride, which helped her trust him. Then they took her to a party. From there they got into a rented car, where she thought she would be OK because another woman was in the car. But he drove to a motel where he dropped that woman off.
Now alone with Reese, she continued to tell him all she wanted was to go home.
Instead, he terrorized her, driving so dangerously that she feared for her life. She begged him to let her go. When they stopped at a red light she tried to jump out, but he pounded on the gas, got on a freeway and headed east to Wisconsin. He threatened to sell her into sex trafficking.
When they stopped at a gas station, she again tried to escape. But he tackled her and dragged her back into the car. Strangers saw what was happening and called 911.
Reese took her to a wooded area, tied her to a tree and raped her. She escaped and ran back to the interstate with her wrists bound, screaming for help. State troopers had been searching the area thanks to the 911 call and found her. The troopers later found and arrested Reese.
Reese represented himself during Tuesday's hearing, and expressed no remorse about that day. Reese has never expressed remorse, Schiltz said. The judge said Reese had been nothing but a problem since the charges were filed, repeatedly filing frivolous motions to delay the case or refusing to come to court.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela Munoz-Kaphing said the woman initially blamed herself for trusting the wrong person, as so many rape victims do.
"She did nothing wrong that day," she said. "He picked the wrong woman, because she was courageous enough to run several times."
When the woman addressed the court during sentencing, she thanked the people who called 911 that day.
"I want you to know that you saved my life. You are my angels," she told them.
After that day, the woman told the court that she cut her hair because the knots he left from grabbing it made her only think of him. But she has since grown it to the length it was before as she's worked to heal from the horror she faced.
"Today when I brushed my hair I'm not reminded of that day," she said. "Instead I am reminded of how far I've come."
"To everyone who helped me get to where I am today, thank you."
Brandon Stahl • 612-673-4626