Braver Than They Knew
Early on Thursday morning, Aug. 1, that sanctuary became the scene of the latest in a rash of kidnappings. Until that night Tamara Brooks, 16, and Jacque Marris, 17, had never met. Brooks is an honors student and track star at Antelope Valley High School; Marris, an excellent student and a cheerleader at rival Highland High. Brooks had driven to Quartz Hill with her friend Eric Brown, 18, in his white Ford Bronco around 11:30 p.m. Shortly afterward, Roy Ratliff, 37, a career criminal already wanted on a rape charge, pulled up in a stolen gray Saturn to begin his rampage, which continued an hour later when Marris arrived with her friend Frank Melero, 19, who recently finished a training course to become an EMT.
Those involved told PEOPLE's Maureen Harrington how the ordeal unfolded.
Brooks: When he came up to the window, at first I thought it was the police and we were in trouble. Then I saw the gun. He said, "Give me all your money." I didn't even have a purse. I was terrified. I was shaking. I was trying to appear calm but I had the biggest lump in my throat. He told Eric to get out. Eric kept saying, "I don't want to die." I couldn't talk at all. I was praying: "Please let me live. I want to live to see my family."
Ratliff led Brown off and bound him with duct tape, then came back to the Bronco and told Brooks he just wanted the vehicle. Then, apparently changing his mind, he began taping her arm to the armrest.
Brooks: I knew then he wasn't going to leave me here.
Next, Ratliff, who had already been convicted in California of three felonies, two for burglary and one for drugs, sneaked up on Marris and Melero, who were sitting in Melero's Mazda pickup.
Melero: All of the sudden he was at my door. He stuck the gun in my face and told me to throw out my wallet. He took about $60 and seemed really mad. He wanted some rope. I had some in the back of the truck. He kept the gun in my back when I got out of the car and went to get it. He was talking all tough, like a mobster. He was calling me "dude" and "bro." He asked me my name and would say, "You think you're a tough guy, Frank?" Back in the truck he began hitting me in the face. I could smell the booze on his breath.
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