She has been known as Jane Doe for the last 10 years, but on Friday the victim of one of Orange County's most notorious sexual assault cases said she was comfortable revealing her true first name.
"I am no longer ashamed of who I am or of what happened to me," Alisa, 26, said. "It feels like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders."
Alisa was one of nearly 400 people – including the Salon Meritage shooting crime victims and their families -- who attended the fourth annual Victims' Rights March and Rally at the Old Orange County Courthouse in Santa Ana.
Alisa was just 16 on July 5, 2002, when she was sexually assaulted while unconscious in the Corona del Mar home of then-Assistant Sheriff Don Haidl. The details of what happened to her that night -- she was videotaped while being assaulted on a pool table and penetrated with a lighted cigarette and pool cue -- were played out in the courtroom and in the media and later sent her over the edge.
"That one night turned my whole life and existence upside down," Alisa said. "I lost myself, my hopes and dreams -- and there was even a point when all I wanted to do was die."
But Alisa decided to go head-on and testify against her attackers, Haidl's 17-year-old son, Greg, and his two buddies Kyle Nachreiner and Keith Spann. Her decision to speak out resulted in torment and humiliation on the witness stand, bouts of depression and drug and alcohol abuse.
At Friday's rally, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas praised Alisa's bravery during two trials (the first resulted in a hung jury), saying: "Because she stood up to [the defendants], Orange County sent a message that we will hold men responsible for having sex with a woman who was unable to say 'no,' and women have a right to control their body. And because she stood up to them, she stood up for everyone."
The boys were ultimately convicted of multiple sexual-assault counts and sentenced to six years in prison. They have since been released on parole and Alisa has mustered the strength to shift her life into a positive direction.
"It took me walking with the devil to realize I had a choice," Alisa said. "I learned that your mind is where the battle is won or lost. I am happy to say I have lived a happy and clean life for many years now."
Today, Alisa works as a medical assistant and attends college studying criminal justice. She is also a state-certified sexual assault victim advocate and crisis intervention counselor who volunteers with the nonprofit Project Sister Family Services.
Alisa said she considered her assailants to be friends, and urges other young women to be careful with the people they allow into their lives.
"Don't be so naive. Be cautious of who you befriend and keep a close-knit group," she said.
Although her life-changing night is almost 10 years behind her, she said it's something she carries with her every day.
"I don't think any punishment would ever be enough for me," Alisa said. "But it feels great to be proud of the young woman I have become."
She choked up as she spoke about the large crowd of victims and their
``It brings tears to my eyes to see all this support,'' she said.
Donna Bjoin, the sister of Katherine O'Connell Mordick, who was murdered by her estranged husband, William Mordick, in 1983, stressed patience in her speech to the audience.
"If you're new on this path, be patient. It can be really slow, but the system works,'' Bjoin said.
Bjoin waited 25 years for technology to advance enough so prosecutors could tie Mordick to the slaying through DNA evidence. Like the Haidl trial, Mordick's first trial ended with a hung jury and Bjoin had to go through a second trial to get justice last year.
``We always believed that someday, somehow, someone would fix this,''
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas used the occasion to promote his efforts to have more cities adopt ordinances that ban sex offenders from public parks and to campaign against the initiative on the June ballot to abolish the death penalty in California.
Since last year, a dozen cities have adopted ordinances banning registered sex offenders from public parks, Rackauckas said.
``Some critics have stated that this is only a `feel good' law, as if we should feel bad about protecting children from being harmed by sex offenders,'' Rackauckas said. ``They don't get it. The greatest aspect of this law is that we will never have statistical proof to show how many children did not get harmed as a result of our law. But at the end of the day, isn't that the ultimate goal?''
Rackauckas also criticized the effort to ban the death penalty. Proponents have argued it would save the state tens of millions of dollars annually.
``The opponents of the death penalty are well-funded and determined. Their only rationale for protecting the most heinous murderers is that it costs too much money, as if we can put a price on justice,'' Rackauckas said. ``They
are dishonest in their accounting, of course, since life without the possibility of parole is almost as expensive.''
Rackauckas warned that the opponents of the death penalty would then turn toward repealing life without parole sentences.
``I hope you will join the California District Attorneys' Association and me in making sure that Californians are not duped into passing that initiative,'' Rackauckas said.
- City News Service Contributed to this report.
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