Kokomo woman uses 1998 abduction to help others

Anita Wooldridge was kept in a file cabinet for eight days in 1998.

While cases like the three missing women found alive in Cleveland Monday are extremely rare, an Indiana woman has her own story of survival.

When Anita Wooldridge hears the Cleveland victim's 911 call, she hears "panic and I have to think it's just that hope that something is going to happen, like when I was stuck in the box."

Wooldridge was kidnapped from her Kokomo home in 1998. The man she knew only from the gym drove her to Wisconsin, where he had a steel box waiting for her.

"I don't even want to pretend to even know what it's like for ten years. My ordeal was eight days and it was horrible. But my heart goes out to them," Wooldridge said.

Along with her therapist, Angela Roegner, Anita wrote a book about her ordeal titled "Eight Days of Darkness." It takes readers inside the victim's mind - whether Cleveland or Kokomo.

"I was just thinking about survival," she said.

She thinks about the strategies the Cleveland women used to stay alive so long. Anita tried to let her captor see her as a friend.

"That was just my way of trying to deal with things and trying to keep things under control and keep my abductor calm," Wooldridge said.

"I watched this morning on the news," Howard County Sheriff Steve Rogers said.

He's talking about the Cleveland story, of course, but says, "first thing I thought of was Anita."

Rogers was part of the team that raced the clock to track the suspect, Victor Steele, who Anita calls "the mole" because of his beady eyes.

"We have to give credit to the way Anita conducted herself as a victim to survive that week of captivity. She did a lot of things right," said Rogers.

And she still does the right thing.

The emergency room technician and firefighter helps train police and FBI to better understand the mind of the victim and motivation of the perpetrator. She also talks with crime victims and educates others.

"It can happen to you," she said. "Need to be aware of our surroundings, be safe. But I also want to stress you can't always live your life in fear."

She's thinking of those Cleveland women now.

"I hope they all get help. I've been in therapy for 15 years. It's not a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength. Get the help you need. If these ladies ever need anything I hope they reach out to me," Wooldridge said.