TEXAS (KMOV) — It was a crisp winter Saturday morning, and Vicki Webb had only one thing on her mind: “My day started out wonderfully. I was going on vacation!” Webb remembered.
At 10 a.m., working alone, Webb opened her Alternatives Gift Shop, a small little store in the Rice Village shopping district near Rice University. It was less than a mile south of Interstate 69 in Houston. One of her first customers that morning was a short man with long, shaggy blonde hair. Webb recalls him wearing a beige, old time cardigan sweater. He walked bow-legged. He spent a few minutes just looking around.
A man killed six people in 1992, appearing out of nowhere to strike in broad daylight before disappearing just as fast. Now, nearly 30 years later, police from throughout the Midwest are coming together one last time to try and catch him
“A short guy,” Webb said. “Maybe around 5-feet-8. He was thin. Very gaunt. Very skinny. I will always say he looked like a jockey. He walked into the store and really just started talking.”
Now, 30 years later, Webb can still see him in her dreams.
“I would guess he was in his mid-30’s. He was very tanned and had a very leathery or weathered look. A worn-down look. I still keep thinking, ‘he has to have worked somewhere outside.’”
Vicki Webb’s date with destiny was just around the corner. And they kept talking.
“He asked me several questions about traffic in the area,” she said. “Did I get a lot of walk-in traffic? I said, ‘well, I am a small gift store and it is the middle of January.'”
Webb said she found it a bit odd but kept talking to the customer.
“I was talking to him very much like a businessperson would, thinking ‘oh this gentleman is looking for real estate or something in the area.”‘
A car pulled into the store next to Webb’s, and soon another customer walked into her store. Things were getting busy, and the first customer left.
“I will be back in a few minutes,” he told Webb.
“He was acting strange,” Webb said. “Who thinks anything else besides this is a strange guy.”
Webb went back to work, and sure enough, the man kept his promise and returned after the other customer left.
“He said he was waiting to meet his niece. He kept telling me how much she would like the store.”
Webb noticed the man kept looking out the window. She assumed he was looking for his niece to arrive. They kept talking.
“He was acting like he was in the same kind of business as me,” Webb recalled.
The customer was in the store for roughly 15-20 minutes.
“He was looking out both sets of windows toward the parking lot,” Webb said. “He kept mentioning his niece.”
The man would occasionally leave the windows and look around the store.
“He was very pensive. He never really got close to me. But he was acting very nervous. But I was closing at 4 p.m. and going on vacation. My mind was certainly not there.”
The man pointed to an item.
“He said something about a copper picture frame that he wanted. He pointed at the wall where the frame was. I walked over grabbed it, handed it to him and then turned around to go behind the counter”
And then time stood still for Webb. Her assailant struck.
“I never heard him come up on me. I never heard a thing. I never saw a gun. I just heard a loud pop behind me.”
But, Webb knew.
“I realized I was falling very slowly down. I fell on my right-hand side. I had not quite registered what had happened at that point.”
The customer shot her in the back of the neck. Webb fell to the floor, conscious but not moving.
“I laid there thinking, ‘oh my gosh, I am in trouble.'”
It was May 8, 1992, the day after Sarah Blessing was murdered in Raytown. There were now six bodies sprayed between Indianapolis and Wichita, and everyone along Interstate 70 was on high alert. Police kept waiting. The public kept watching.
The customer then jumped over the counter and grabbed less than $100 from the cash register.
“All I could see was his feet. He had on brown cowboy roper boots.”
Webb lay wondering what was next.
“He went to a small room in the back and opened the door. It was my storage closet. It was packed. There was no room in there. He closed it and then came back over to me.”
Webb did not know it yet, but she was paralyzed. She could barely breathe.
“My breathing was so shallow he would not have detected it anyway.”
Her mind focused on one thing.
“I thought, ‘oh God please do not take me yet. I have a 13-year-old daughter.'”
Webb knew her only chance to stay alive was to play dead, and hope the shooter thought he had killed her.
“You watch those old movies. I almost drowned once, but I remembered a movie with Burt Reynolds, where he swam sideways to survive, so I remembered and I swam sideways that day and I did not die. I always remember looking back at movies and thinking ‘oh you idiot, you are telling this person you are not dead, this person clearly wants you dead.’ Well, you are not an idiot Vicki Webb. You will just absolutely lay there and pretend.”
Webb told News 4 she could not feel anything and was having a little trouble breathing. She breathed a sigh of relief when the shooter left the store. That soon turned to horror when she heard him return.
“I just kept my eyes closed. I knew this horrible individual wanted me dead. Why, I did not know. But this person wanted me dead.”
But back he was, rolling Webb over and dragging her behind the counter.
“He jumped back over me. He pulled my legs down. I was now lying flat. He took my trousers off, which I did not remember. But I was not raped.”
Then Webb waited and wondered. She didn’t have to wait long.
“He put the gun back to my forehead and pulled the trigger.”
Webb paused, and the words came out slowly.
“It went click.”
Time stood still.
“Then he just laughed. He is a very sick man.”
Webb heard some noises outside the store. Her attacker must have heard them too, and quickly left.
“He was there to kill whoever happened to be there.”
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (KMOV) — The hunt to find a serial killer continues.
Webb would lay there, in her blood, for about 10 to 15 minutes.
Suddenly, she heard the tinkling sound of the bell attached to the store’s front door. A couple had arrived to shop. Webb could hear, but not see them.
“I said to them, very weakly, ‘excuse me. Can you please get some help? I have been shot.”‘
With her eyes now open, Webb lay on the floor and wondered. Thoughts of what had just happened were racing through her mind.
“The things that go through your head, I can’t explain. They make no sense whatsoever.”
“I remember thinking, I can’t move my arm. Did he saw off my arm?”
Then she had hope.
“Immediately, I felt okay,” Webb recalled. “I am going to be just fine. I never lost consciousness the entire time. I had not one ounce of pain until the door dinged and the couple came in. And then it was excruciating.”
And then the ambulance arrived.
“I remember the ambulance man helping me saying ‘we are only about 5 minutes away, but this is going to be the longest ride of your life.’ He was right.”
By the time Webb arrived at the hospital, the pain got worse.
“If you are a female, and you had a child, to me that pain level is about a three at the worst and I have had a child. But this was absolutely unbearable.”
Webb’s head could not be touched.
“My head was hypersensitive. You could barely touch a hair on my head, and I would scream. It was indescribable pain. I did not wish to live if I was going to stay like that. My head felt like an ice pick with an electric current running through it.”
Her family was convinced that Webb was going to die. But she knew better.
“I could have put them at ease because I knew I was going to be fine. There was no doubt in my mind.”
Webb only survived thanks to a spinal abnormality that caused the bullet to ricochet off her vertebrae and lodge in her head.
“I only survived because I have an abnormally large spinal column,” Webb said. “Where he shot me, a million other people would have been dead.”
The bullet struck her between the second and third vertebrae, chipping a bone that hit her spinal cord, leaving her paralyzed from the neck down.
Surgeons were not able to remove the bullet from her spinal column.
“I had many touch and go moments in the hospital. They wanted to do surgery to get the bullet out, but they said I might lose use of my right arm. I said, keep the bullet in, I am good.”
Nearly 30 years later, it still rests in her neck, and she insists it will never leave.
“I still feel the effects of the bullet every day. Not pain, but uncomforting. What I feel on a daily basis is somebody choking me. It is my new normal. I ache every day.”
Webb would undergo multiple surgeries. After three months of rehabilitation, she was able to walk again.
The only evidence of the crime is the bullet lodged in her neck.
“I am a very independent Individual, and I went to becoming very dependent,” Webb said. “I lost three months of my life. You have to learn to do everything again when you are paralyzed.”
After the shooting and rehab, Webb laid low, avoiding any publicity. She remarried, changed her name, and moved out of state. She would later move multiple times. It was certainly understandable that she lived in fear that her assailant might one day return to finish the job. Years went by, and then Webb decided enough was enough. She now refuses to let her attacker control her life.
“I can’t live in any type of fear any longer.”
And she hasn’t. Webb has traveled the world. The Big Sur. Mackinac Island. The Notre Dame Cathedral. After you have beaten death, there is a life to live.
Larry Ankrom would spend that life at the FBI headquarters in Quantico, Virginia, specializing in behavioral science, eventually becoming chief of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit for the western part of the United States. In layman’s terms, Ankrom is an FBI profiler.
“This has been both a blessing and a curse,” Webb said. “A curse for me, sure. I do not block it out. I am not in denial. This happened. But an amazing blessing for my family, who thought they had lost me, and for me being able to move forward with my life. It became more important for me to live a regular life So many blessings have come from that, and that is what I choose to focus on. The blessings and not the horribleness of it.”
“The man took a lot of my life away. Once I made the choice that he could not have anymore, I have never looked back.”
“I am very lucky. If this was a part of the I-70 killings, I am the ninth victim. The eight before me are no longer here. But whether I was part of the I-70 case or not part of the I-70 case, there still was somebody who shot me, and they are still out there.”
Webb told News 4 she sees the similarities to the I-70 Killer composite and her attacker.
“The composite was similar. There were similarities. I would never say that was exactly it. For me, it is more the voice that I remember. I would recognize the voice. To this day, I would recognize his voice.”
Webb told News 4 she is not consumed by the case.
“I have followed the case over the years, but I do not choose to live there. After a while, yes, this happened to me. But there is a whole entire life outside of that. I think it was just my choice to remain ignorant as to the investigation. I chose not to be that involved. It is just not a place that I wanted to live.”
Webb paused again.
“We all make a choice of what we choose to do each and every day. I chose to move on and live my life as normally as I possibly can.”
That is not to say that Webb is not hoping for a resolution someday. Far from it.
“This person needs to be caught. He needs to be taken off the streets. I just want him off the streets. If he is out there, he needs to be taken into custody. He needs to be treated. He needs to be accountable for his actions. He is a sick, sick human being. Evil. Pure evil.”
If her assailant is caught, Webb wants to be there to confront him.
“I want to ask him why? Why did he feel the need to do this? He was driven in some way. It is the psychology of it. Why? Why did he choose me? What happened in his life that truly made this an okay thing for him to do? “
Of course, Webb already knows the answers to those questions.
“I know there are no answers for that.”
Webb someday hopes to confront her attacker in court, to show him that she won.
“I would not even be fearful sitting across from him.”
For Webb, no matter how this saga ends, there will never be closure.
“I am not even looking for closure. I am not looking for an apology. I just want him caught.”
Webb believes, just like detectives in Indianapolis, Wichita, Terre Haute, St. Charles, Raytown, Fort Worth, Arlington, and Houston do, that the answer will probably need to come from within.
“I would like to think his family turns him in, or a neighbor turns him in. I want him off the streets so nobody else goes through what me and my family went through. Others have lost loved ones. I am very lucky. Get this horrible human being off the streets so he cannot do this to anyone else.”
Until that day, Webb continues to move forward.
“I choose in my mind to think that he is dead. Maybe that makes life a little easier for me. But he will have no effect on me. He has had enough of my life. He can’t have any more. I choose not to give it to him.”
And then Vicki Webb made the understatement of all understatements.
“I really do not consider myself a tough cookie.”
That is where she is wrong.