Tue, 22 Jan 2013 10:28 UTC
Tue, 22 Jan 2013 10:28 UTC
James Persyn III was at home in Shepherd, Mich., watching his siblings Acelin, 11, and Angus, 2, on Wednesday night while their father drove a few miles away to pick up his fiancee from work.
Suddenly, the children said they heard banging on the door and a woman screaming, "Let me in! Let me in!"
James opened the door and a panicked woman rushed into the kitchen. She shouted that someone had kidnapped her and was trying to kill her. She told the children they needed to hide.
The teen remembered that his father had told him that, in case of emergency, he should get everyone into one of the bathrooms -- the only room in the house with no windows.
James said he got his siblings and the frantic woman to climb into the bathtub. He told his sister to call 911 while he retrieved the hunting knife he had just gotten for Christmas.
Meanwhile, James Persyn Jr., the father, had arrived at his fiancee's family's business, J&M Produce and Nursery, to pick her up. His cellphone rang. It was his "frantic" son on the other end.
Persyn told ABCNews.com that his son said something to the effect of, "There's a man outside the house and [you] need to get home as soon as possible."
Persyn took off for home, telling his fiancee to keep James on the phone.
As the children and women hid in the bathtub, they did not know that the alleged attacker, Eric Ramsey, had poured gasoline on the house, lit a match and taken off.
As Persyn approached the house, he hoped he would be able to surprise the intruder.
"I cut my lights off within a tenth of a mile, hoping to catch this person outside," Persyn said. He didn't find the intruder, but instead found "the bottom of my house aglow."
Persyn put out the fire with the side of his body and his feet.
"I was yelling for my kids. I was yelling for the intruder," he said. The doors were all locked and he had left his keys back at the store. He tried to break a window to get inside, not knowing if the intruder was in the house.
Police arrived moments later and assumed Persyn was the intruder when they saw him trying get into the house. He told them that he was the father and that his children were in the house.
The children finally opened the door when they spotted police and Persyn met them in the living room, thinking the ordeal was over.
"My daughter was quite hysterical," he said. "My son, you could tell he was upset and scared but he handled it very well."
But then the children started talking about the woman with them. Authorities quickly found her. She was injured, but "amazingly calm," Persyn said.
"I don't know if she was still in shock or relieved that she was safe," he said. Paramedics cared for the woman and police questioned her before she was taken to the hospital. Authorities also interviewed the children.
It was soon determined that the attacker was not on the premises, but that meant he was on the loose.
Persyn said that he and his family camped out in the living room that night, but no one could sleep knowing that the attacker was on the lam.
With an alert out for the suspect, the Isabella County Sheriff's Department received word from regional dispatch that a suspect and vehicle matching the alert had been spotted about an hour and a half north.
Ramsey ended up ramming a Michigan state trooper's car so hard that he disabled it and it could not chase after it, police said.
His car broke down in the middle of a field and he walked to a sanitation company where he found a Ford pickup truck with the keys in it.
He took off and hit another Michigan state police patrol car before speeding away, police said. In nearby Crawford County, a deputy spotted Ramsey.
"Ramsey ends up swerving and hitting the Crawford County deputy head on, doing extensive damage to the car and actually pinned the deputy for a little while," Isabella County Sheriff Leo Mioduszewski told ABCNews.com.
Ramsey backed up as if he were going to ram the car again.
At some point during the ordeal, Ramsey managed to post on Facebook, "Well folkes [sic] im [sic] about to get shot. Peace."
"The deputy was able to slither out and ended up firing some shots and ended up fatally killing Mr. Ramsey there at the scene," Mioduszewski said.
An investigation revealed that the woman, a senior at Central Michigan University, had been on her way to her car when an armed man approached her and forced her into the passenger seat, police said.
"The gentleman started driving, took her to a residence in the south part of Isabella County, brought her inside, taped her hands, bound her and then ended up sexually assaulting her," Mioduszewski said.
He put her back into her car and retrieved two gas cans from the garage of the house.
"At one point, going down the road, he told her, basically, that he was going to kill her," Mioduszewski said. "So, fearing for her life, she ended up jumping out of the moving car."
She fractured her arm, but managed to take off running. She spotted the Persyn house and rushed to the door.
"If [James hadn't] let her in, there's no doubt in my mind that Ramsey would have ended up killing her," Mioduszewski said.
The woman, who is not being identified since she was the victim of a sexual assault, was taken to the hospital for surgery and has since been released.
Ramsey, the alleged attacker, was paroled last summer after spending five years in prison for felonious assault. He also had a violent criminal history.
"For anything that he did actually do, I'm sorry for the people that he may have hurt, but believe me, that wasn't the way he was," Cindy Gimmey, Ramsey's mother, told ABC News' affiliate WJRT-TV in Flint, Mich.
"We've had some weird stuff happen but, by far, when you add up the kidnapping, the attempted murder, the larceny of a car, arson and then ramming three patrol cars -- it was quite an ordeal," Mioduszewski said.
James will be honored with a lifesaving award at a county commission meeting later this month, Mioduszewski said. He has gotten a lot of attention but his family maintains that he simply did the right thing.
"We had never really thought about 'hero,'" Persyn said of his son. "I just kept telling him how proud I was of him."