A teenage girl was forced to play dead while being thrown from a bridge after her friend was brutally murdered and almost decapitated in a horrifying attack.
Elizabeth Reiser, 17, and Brandi Hicks, 18, were ready for an evening of relaxation after just finishing their final exams when they were approached by a man asking for a lift home.
The best friends were just a few days away from high school graduation and had decided to head to an Ohio video store to watch round Brandi's house.
Browsing the videos and discussing the latest choir banquet they'd just participated in at their local church, an older man approached them.
He told Liz and Brandi that he had no way to get home and begged them for a lift back to his house.
The older man even offered $20 for their troubles.
“The man talked with Liz and Brandi for a while. Liz sensed something was wrong, but Brandi thought that with the two of them, it would be safe to give him a ride,” Becki Reiser, Elizabeth's mother, later told the Lancaster Eagle Gazette.
The pair decided to give the man a lift and asked him to provide the directions to where he wanted to be dropped off.
Something switched in the girl's trust when the man's demeanour quickly changed and his directions stopped making sense.
They stopped the car and asked the man to get out.
Elizabeth and Brandi's heart sank when the man pulled out a gun and ordered them to keep driving – directing Brandi to an isolated field right on the edge of town.
He tied her hands to the steering wheel with the laces from her shoes and then led Liz into the field out of sight.
Brandi could do nothing but wait in horror as the man slashed Liz's neck with a knife at least three times, before cutting her throat, almost decapitating her with the force of the slashes.
She was then stabbed in the neck, back and face.
As Elizabeth was left to horrifically bleed to death, the man walked back to the car and untied Brandi.
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The horrified teen was led over to the scene of the brutal murder and forced to watch the last moments of her best friend's life, Medium reports.
The crazed killer put socks over his hands so no fingerprints were left on the wheel and drove to a railroad car on a track high above the Tuscarawas River in New Philadelphia.
Brandi was sexually assaulted repeatedly and strangled with her laces, the man couldn't use the same knife he did with Elizabeth as it had snapped.
The evil killer allegedly tried to snap Brandi's neck three times which caused her to pass out, according to County Prosecutor Amanda Spies Bornhorst.
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Unbelievably, Brandi fought against death and regained consciousness once again – this time deciding that the only hope of escape was to play dead.
Against all odds Brandi attempted to stay as still as possible as the man continued to brutally strangle her.
He finally stopped pulling on the laces and thought Brandi was dead.
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But before he left he began to push her 'lifeless' body off the railway track, but as she fell her foot became entangled on two wooden boards.
Now suspended upside down, Brandi kept up the dead act as the murderer frantically tried to get the foot loose.
All of a sudden Brandi was free falling towards the water, where she plummeted and allowed herself to float on the surface.
According to Bornhorst, the killer "stayed on the bridge talking to himself and kicking stones", which meant Brandi had to stay in the water to not raise any suspicions.
When the murderer finally left, Brandi ran for a passing motorist and was rushed to hospital, where she told police a detailed and thorough description of her best friend's killer.
During this time, a woman named Sheila Davis called the local sheriff's office and told them that her son had been involved in a murder.
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She said that a man called Jeff Mulinix, her son's brother in law, had information relating to a brutal and heinous crime.
When police spoke to Mulinix, he said that 27-year-old Matthew Vaca had turned up at his house late the previous evening and told him he wanted to show him something as a matter of urgency.
In a horrific self confession, Vaca took his brother-in-law to the field where had murdered Liz, and even showed him where the broken pieces of knife were, according to the Outline of a Murder podcast.
Police had everything they needed to quickly arrest Vaca, and they discovered he had a long history of criminality.
From threatening to kill his wife with a shotgun to forgery and theft, he was a serial criminal.
Brandi and both her and Elizabeth's family faced Vaca in court, where Brandi stood face to face with the sick man who destroyed her life and took her best friends.
The judge handed the maximum 96-and-a-half years imprisonment on an 11-count conviction.
Matthew Vaca is still held in the Mansfield Correctional Institution in Ohio. He is not eligible for parole until 2096.
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