Jennifer Asbenson was 19 years old in September 1992 when she suffered a horrifying ordeal at the hands of serial killer Andrew Urdiales, who kidnapped her, drove her to a remote location in the desert in California, beat her and attempted to sexually assault her. Asbenson managed to escape the trunk of the former U.S. Marine and ran down the road where she was rescued by two men, PEOPLE wrote.
Although Asbenson told police what had happened to her, the brutal ordeal was made even worse when authorities and even her own family dismissed her story as fiction, CBS News reported. Asbenson didn’t know it then, but at the time Urdiales had already murdered four women and would go on to murder another four in Illinois and California before he was arrested and confessed to his crimes, including Asbenson’s kidnapping and escape.
Where is Jennifer Asbenson today?
Asbenson Has a Daughter, Is Married & Recently Published a Memoir Recounting Her Ordeal
Asbenson, now 48, wrote The Girl in the Treehouse, a memoir in which she recounted her ordeal and her path to healing, in January 2019. According to her author’s bio, Asbenson “continues to be an advocate for the victims who cannot speak for themselves and continues to speak on behalf of mental health awareness.”
The author and advocate was diagnosed with “PTSD, OCD, ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety,” it states, and spends her free time journaling and helping other PTSD survivors. “Jennifer spends her time taking college courses and reading self-improvement books; she also loves to go on adventures with her support dog Wesley,” it concludes.
On the 24th anniversary of her kidnapping and escape, in 2017, Asbenson returned to the scene where she was taken by Urdiales in Desert Hot Springs in California. Once there, she recorded herself speaking into the camera and recounting her ordeal, telling news.com.au, “I wanted them to hear everything in my own words, without interruption. I wanted them to feel like they were experiencing it with me. I am not ashamed or embarrassed to be a human. So I do not edit myself. I thought people would appreciate the rawness of it.”
Asbenson gave birth to her daughter four years after her kidnapping and she told the outlet her daughter helped her move forward and heal from what happened: “I didn’t want my daughter to ever wish she had a different mum, so I turned myself into a different person,” Asbenson said. According to her Facebook page, she recently got married in June 2021.
She Testified During Urdiales’ 3 Trials, the 2 in Illinois & in California in 2018
Urdiales had three trials in total, the first two of which were in Illinois, where he was eventually convicted of killing three women. After several delays, Urdiales was found guilty of the murders of Laura Ulyaki and Lynn Huber in Illinois in 2002 and was sentenced to death in that state. However, the following year, the state governor had all of the death sentences commuted to life imprisonment, NBC Los Angeles reported.
Due to that commutation, prosecutors decided to try Urdiales for the murder of Cassandra Corum and the judge in that trial sentenced Urdiales to death in May 2004. Urdiales remained on death row for several years in Illinois until the government abolished the death penalty in the state in 2011 and his sentence was commuted to life in prison, according to NBC Los Angeles.
The outlet reported that the second commutation led prosecutors in California to seek the extradition of Urdiales to Orange County so he could be tried for five murders in that state. In May 2018, Urdiales was found guilty of all five murders in a jury trial and was sentenced to death for the third time on October 5, 2018.
Asbenson testified about her ordeal at all three trials, from the moment she met Urdiales to her escape from his clutches after he kidnapped and attacked her in the desert. Asbenson posted about her testimony on Facebook, writing, “I am not nervous or afraid. I am honored to speak on behalf of these 8 angels and finally give their loved ones some peace and rest.”
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