A woman who survived a horrifying ordeal confronts her kidnapper in court.
Jeffrey Nelson, 20, was sentenced Monday to two life terms plus nine years in prison for kidnapping an elderly woman from her La Mesa home and leaving her locked in the back of her vehicle for more than a day. Nelson was convicted of attempted murder and torture in the December 2008 attack on Natalie "Sandy" Herbst-Vinge, 76. An accomplice, 19-year-old Luis Osborne, was sentenced to 10 years and four months as part of a plea deal.
Herbst-Vinge confronted Nelson in court Monday.
"Was it worth it, what you did?" Herbst-Vinge asked Nelson. "You're going to spend the rest of your youth in prison."
"I'm sorry," Nelson replied. "I'm truly and deeply sorry."
After her court appearance Herbst-Vinge spoke to reporters.
"I didn't know what I was going to say to [Nelson]," Herbst-Vinge said. "I was glad I didn't lose my temper with him, because he was mean to me. I don't know if anything will ever be normal again, but I have friends -- and my family."
During the trial, Herbst-Vinge testified that a door-to-door vacuum salesman choked her until she was unconscious, tied her hands with duct tape and drove away with her in the back of her own station wagon. She was saved when a sheriff's deputy pulled over the station wagon and freed her.
A third suspect, Antoinette Baker, was also arrested Wednesday for abducting and beating Natalie Herbst-Vinge, San Diego Sheriff's deputies said. Charges against her were later dropped.
Nelson cleaned Herbst-Vinge's carpet and then, according to prosecutors, returned weeks later to rob her. Over the next 26 hours the three suspects beat Herbst-Vinge, locked her in the trunk of her car and used her stolen credit cards.
Nelson went to the victim's home on Resmar Place in unincorporated La Mesa to clean the carpet. Instead, Nelson sold Herbst-Vinge a vacuum cleaner for $2,300, came back to thank her a few days later, saying the sale helped him win a trip to Hawaii. That night, Nelson returned again, saying he needed to use the phone because he had broken up with his girlfriend. That's when Herbst-Vinge was attacked, bound her with duct tape and dragged her to her Dodge wagon.
Herbst-Vinge chewed through the duct tape and screamed for help while they her kidnappers stopped at a gas station, to no avail. The kidnappers then parked the car for the night, leaving Herbst-Vinge inside. The next day, the kidnappers returned, then drove around the County with Herbst-Vinge in the trunk.
Deputies said they tried to pull over the wagon for running a red light on Tangerine Street in El Cajon, but the driver refused to yield and eventually managed to elude officers. Shortly afterward, deputies spotted the vehicle with the suspects inside, who fled on foot. Osbourne was taken into custody immediately, Nelson and Baker were arrested after a manhunt in the area. Deputies found Herbst-Vinge tied up in the back of the car.
A shovel was found in the back of the car, leading investigators to suspect the worst.