He abducted his ex-girlfriend, Donna, and held a gun to her head, but in just 30 hours, Jerry Savage was able to make bail and return to the streets in the same town where she was, clearly fearing for her life. But for all her concerns, no one — not the police, not Donna, not anyone — knew the lengths that Jerry would go to try and hurt Donna.
"When Jerry was fixing to make bond from the Pontotoc County jail,
we were concerned for Donna's safety. And I told her it would probably be in her best interest if she did leave town for a few days," says Pontotoc County under-sheriff, Joe Glover.
Donna took his advice and spent three weeks in Tulsa while her two daughters, Caitlin, 16, and Amanda, 15, stayed with her parents.
"We tried to protect the girls," says Donna's mother, Joann. "We warned them both, 'Don't ever be by yourself. Always be in a group.'"
During those weeks, the family never heard from Jerry. "We were starting to feel a little more confident that we were more safe than we originally thought," Donna says.
On September 23rd, Caitlin drove to her high school for color guard practice. She was supposed to pick Amanda up at 3:00 p.m., but she never showed up, so Amanda called their grandfather, Andy.
"Andy got in his truck, went to the high school and there sat Caitlin's car with the backdoor open." He found her purse down on the floorboard and her flags in the back seat. "And Caitlin was nowhere to be found." Joann called the police.
Moments later, Joann received another call. It was Caitlin. "She said, 'Andma, you need to have Mom call this number within five
minutes.' And I said, 'Caitlin, does Jerry have you?' And he took the phone from her. I begged him, 'Please don't hurt Caitlin. Please don't hurt her,' and he said, 'Lady, I'm going to kill you and the whole family. And you're wasting your time, because you've got less than five minutes now to get your daughter to call me.' It took, me four minutes to reach her." Her voice breaks as she recounts the horror. "And I finally got her, and I had to tell her that Jerry had her daughter."
Donna continues, "So I called him on his cell phone. And he said, 'I've got Caitlin, and I'm going to kill her.' He said, 'We're out in the middle of the woods somewhere and you'll never find us.' And I could hear them walking through the sticks. And I just kept begging him, 'Please, don't hurt her.' And I said, 'Well, let me trade places with her.' And he said, 'No, if I kill you it won't hurt you, it will hurt her. If I kill her, it will hurt you, and that's what I've got to do.' I said, 'Let me talk to her a minute.' and I told that her everything was going to be OK and that I loved her. She said she loved me, and then he took the phone away from her.
He told her to, 'Sit down on that stump over there.' He said, 'I'm going to shoot her from behind so she won't see it coming.' He hung up and I called right back and he didn't answer the phone."
Meanwhile, the authorities had begun racing to find the pair before it was too late.
"The Amber Alert went out real quick," says Andy.
A student had described a green pickup that was pulled up beside Caitlin's car.
Donna's brother, Kevin, a police officer, says, "We know who's truck it was. It belonged to Faye Sliger. And Faye was taken into custody that night."
"It was the worst night of my life," says Donna. "We didn't know if she was alive or dead."
"The pressure and stress while we were waiting to find Caitlin was unbelievable," Kevin adds.
"We were all just sick," Joann recounts. "No one could sleep. We sat up all night listening to the scanner. At 9:30 in the morning I heard them say, 'I'll take you to the body.' They used the word, 'body,' and I was so in hopes it was just Jerry."
"She was right where what Donna heard him describe" says Kevin. "There was a fallen tree that she had been sitting on.
He shot her in the back of the head, and then he shot himself. I knew then I had to come tell the rest of the family. My sister, my mother and my father that Caitlin was dead." He halts, fighting back tears.
Kevin went to Donna. She says, "I knew from the look on his face, and I said, 'Please tell me that he's dead too,' and he said, yes, that Jerry was dead too. Amanda and I just held each other and we were both crying and screaming, 'No, no, no! It can't be true,' and she said, 'I can't live without my sister.' And Amanda started screaming."
Those screams still resonate for Joann. "And I don't think I'll ever get that sound out of my ears ... and my heart," she says.
Kevin laments, "I spent 17 years keeping approximately 30,000 people out of harms way, and I couldn't even protect my own niece." His voice trails off as he attempts to contain his emotions.
Unfortunately, Jerry's death did not quell Donna's fears entirely. She says, "We're staying with my parents right now, because I can't go back to my house. I look over my shoulder continuously. I'm so afraid that something will happen to Amanda too. She's not doing well. She's having nightmares. She won't even be in a room by herself."
Donna feels the pain of missing her daughter. "If I could speak to Caitlin right now, I would tell her that I miss her terribly, and that I love her very much, and I'm sorry, that I wish I could have stopped Jerry from hurting her," she says. "My whole life has changed now. She was the best thing that's ever happened to me. She was the joy of my life. He's taken away everything from me."
"Jerry shouldn't have been let out after committing such a violent crime," says Joann.
"She was the most innocent of all, and she was not protected," says Andy.
Dr. Phil says to Joe, "Help us out, if you can, from a law enforcement standpoint. How did this guy get out? How did he get a gun, when he had just been arrested and charged with kidnapping with a gun? How did he get out within 30 hours and get a gun?"
"Well," says Joe, "we believe, in the criminal justice system, everything was done to the letter of the law, but obviously the system failed. Jerry's bond was set the next day after he was arrested, and he had quite a substantial amount of cash in his bank account and he was able to make the bond set."
"And you knew in your mind, from your experience and your interaction with him, you knew the guy was dangerous. That's why you were warning the family, right?" asks Dr. Phil.
"That is correct," Joe responds. "Jerry had no prior criminal history, but we have since found out that apparently he did take his ex-wife at gunpoint about twenty years ago and that incident was never reported."
Dr. Phil acknowledges that words can't describe what the family has been through, but he asks how they are feeling just two weeks after this tragic series of events.
"Life has just changed," says Donna. "I've lost the one person in my life who is just my whole life."
Dr. Phil says, "My rule has always been you just don't intrude on people's grief, you just don't intrude on that. I hate when that happens. But the reason that y'all wanted to do this is because this has got to stop."