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LAWRENCE — A would-be rapist got more than he bargained for when he grabbed a 31-year-old woman in the bathroom of her first-floor apartment on the city's northwest side.
The 5-foot-1-inch, 124-pound woman fought back fiercely, and the 5-foot-7-inch, 200-pound man wound up outside on the ground with a serious knee injury, waiting for police to arrive.
Police said a thoroughly beaten Edgardo Montes, 47, of 10 Stearns Ave., was arrested at the scene and charged with breaking and entering in the nighttime with intent to commit a felony, assault with intent to rape, and indecent assault and battery on a person 14 or over.
Montes was designated as a Level 2 sex offender after a 1995 rape conviction, police said after his arrest.
April Marchessault said she took out the trash about 12:30 a.m. on July 30 and went inside.
"I came back in and left the screen door closed but the back door open," she said, describing what happened. She said she vacuumed her living room and went into the bathroom to wipe down the sink.
"He came up from behind me and put his arms around me on my chest. I went to turn around and he squeezed me so I couldn't turn around," she said.
The suspect tried to force her face into the sink.
"I don't know where my strength came from. I was able to turn around and saw him with the back of his shirt pulled over his face," she said. "I pushed him and he went backwards and while he was going backwards he swung and that's when he hit me."
Shaking off the punch to her jaw she pushed him backwards and he fell into the stove.
"I grabbed the top of his head and pulled his shirt off. He went to go out the back door but I was standing there," she said.
The man was trying to get out and she didn't know if he was waiting to come at her so she moved out of the way and pushed him out the door, she said.
"He went face first over the railing on the back porch. He leaned over and then he got back up and I kicked him as hard as I could, and he fell down the back stairs. He landed on his knee," she said.
She didn't stop there.
"I ran down the stairs and I kept hitting him in the face and head with my fist," she said. "I was screaming. I was stomping on his knee."
She said she did not remember the man saying anything.
"He kept trying to get up and I kept hitting him. I couldn't hit him anymore because my hand was killing me. That's when I picked up the trash can and I kept hitting him in the head over and over."
While this was going on, her mother heard her screams and saw her fighting with the man, and got her father, who came to her aid.
"He couldn't get up by then, and my dad stood in front of him while he sat on the curb in front of my neighbor's house."
During the battle, her three boys, ages 11, 6 and 3 were asleep in a nearby room and never woke up.
Asked what was going through her mind as she fought him, she said she was motivated by concern for his other potential victims if he got away.
"I felt if I let him go, he might try to do it to someone else," she said. "I would have done anything I had to make sure he didn't get away."
Of her fierce resistance, she said, "Actually, I don't think I could have handled it any other way with my three kids in the other room."
And she has some advice for any woman who finds herself in a similar situation.
"Just fight back," she said. "Don't stop. Don't give in."
She said she thought the assailant might have been surprised by the fight she put up.
"I don't think he was expecting any resistance. He's a lot bigger than me," she said.
She said she was taken to Lawrence General Hospital to have her hand treated, and after X-rays it was determined a sprain.
While she was there, she heard a nurse ask the police why they brought her to the hospital when the suspect was there at the same time.
"I said I requested to come here and she said, 'You know he's here,' and I said, 'Yes.'"
Police Chief John Romero praised her actions in making sure the suspect didn't get away.
"I think she is a very brave woman," Romero said. "She not only fought off her attacker, but with the assistance of her father made sure he did not get away."
Montes was found to pose a danger to the community and was ordered jailed without bail pending his trial.
He is due back in court Sept. 8 for a probable cause hearing.