Kidnapping survivor recalls how she escaped and moved on - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Kidnapping survivor recalls how she escaped and moved on

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STORM LAKE, Iowa (KTIV) -

Life has never been easy for Jessica Vega.

"Ever since I was in my mother's womb, I have been neglected,"  Jessica explained.

Born in Honduras, the 21-year-old says she was passed between family members, even kidnapped by her father, and sexually abused.

"Throughout my life I have been raped by friends, uncles," she said.

One of those rapes produced a child when she was 15. 

"That's the reason I went into the foster care system," Jessica explained.

Throughout her life, Jessica says she's counted on God to get through.

"I remember asking God why he let that happen to me.  There was a lot of pain," said Jessica.

It was divine intervention, she believes, that helped her escape Kirk Levin.

The pair met online and exchanged letters while Levin was in prison.

"The only reason I kept writing to him was because I felt bad.  He would say how all of his friends has basically abandoned him, and I knew how that felt," she recalled.

The pair met for the first time in 2010, and met a handful of times after.

"He's just kind of an awkward, funny, kind of guy," Jessica described.

On a cold January morning last year, Levin showed up at Jessica's Storm Lake, Iowa apartment asking for a ride home.   Something didn't seem right.

"Especially when he switched his story, because first I heard spark plugs and then I heard he ran out of gas, and I thought I heard him wrong," Jessica remembered.

She left her daughter Victoria with her sister and drove him home.  Jessica relived the kidnapping on the witness stand in June.  First, she said, Levin pretended like he didn't know the way.

"I didn't want to waste anytime looking for his house so I suggested to call his mom," she said.

Little did she know, his mom was dead, upstairs in her Early, Iowa farm house. When they got there, he persuaded her to go into the barn.

"He's like take a seat, and I just sat down, and then he said, 'I'm kidnapping you," she recalled.  "He's like, ‘don't fight don't struggle.'"

Jessica is a fighter.  All those survival skills she learned over the years kicked in.

"When I was in that situation, I actually felt something touch me every time I was supposed to do something," remembered Jessica.

First, she complied with Levin so that she could convince him to go back and get her daughter in Storm Lake.  When he tried to put Jessica in the back of her car, she told him she wanted to be in the trunk.  Why?  Because her tool box was inside. 

"Before he put me in there, that was the last thing he took," said Jessica, recalling when Levin moved the toolbox to the back seat.

"I thought, I've worked so hard to graduate BV, and I was like I'm never gonna see my daughter again," she said.

After minutes in the truck, she told Levin she was suffocating and he let her out.  Now, she was sitting in the front seat, and closer to the tool box, closer to freedom.

"All I had to do was grab the hammer, which just happened to be sticking out, all I had to is just grab the hammer and whack him," said Vega.

Before she could, Levin slid off the snow covered road into a ditch.  Farmer Gary Schramm came to the rescue.

"I said, 'Kirk, untie me, untie me, so they think we're just this couple," Vega recounted.

That's when she ran.

"'I've been kidnapped kidnapped, please help me," she told Schramm's wife.

The nightmare was over.

At first, Jessica would replay what happened in her mind every day.  But eventually,

"I just decided to move on, and stop thinking about it," she added.

Last Thursday, Jessica met face to face again with Levin, bravely addressing her kidnapper before his sentencing.

"Even though I have a reason to hate you, I don't," she told him during her victim impact statement.

"Kirk can you please look at me?  I forgive you," she said.

"I wanted him to know that I was sincere about every word," she explained.

Jessica says she forgives Levin.

"I think that forgiveness changes everything.  I felt free," she said.

Not only that.

"I still think that Kirk is a person that has potential," Jessica added.

Brave, kind, and independent, those are the same characteristics she wants to instill in Victoria, who's about to turn six.  Jessica says she's living with purpose, not looking back, but moving forward.

"I refuse to be called a victim, I'm a survivor.  I'm here because of God," said Vega.

She graduated from Buena Vista University, in Storm Lake, in May with degrees in Psychology and Spanish, and is now doing social work.

 

 

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