71ºF

Jogger Speaks At Attacker's Sentencing

Man Accused Of Attempted Sexual Battery Sentenced To 15 Years In Prison

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Danielle Rivers can vividly remember the December 2008 day she was attacked while jogging along the Jacksonville Riverwalk downtown. She recounted the story Thursday during the sentencing hearing of the man who pleaded guilty to trying to rape her.

"I fought back. I refused to let him take me where he wanted to take me," Rivers said.

She said that's why she's still alive today. The brutal attack started when Gary Ray, a homeless man, jumped in front of her as she was jogging around 8 a.m., according to prosecutors.

"Grabbed my hair, started to try to pull me underneath the ramp and started stabbing me over and over," Rivers said. "He kept saying, 'Don't fight it. Don't fight it. You're coming with me.'"

But fight is exactly what the single mother did. Even after being stabbed more than 20 times, she grabbed the blade of the knife with her hand and just held on, she said.

"I fought back and he was getting tired, and he finally pushed me away," Rivers said. "And he said, 'Run, run as fast as you can. I'm the devil.'"

On Thursday, nearly three years later, Rivers faced her attacker in court when she testified at Ray's sentencing hearing. Ray pleaded guilty earlier this week to attempted sexual battery, and a judge handed down the maximum sentence of 15 years.

Rivers said she got a little bit of closure and relief.

"He will not do this to another individual again," she said.

Rivers said she's still scared every day. She said she's gone through bouts of depression and says her life will never be the same. But she's alive, recovering and trying to move on.

Rivers has this message for others who may someday be in the same situation.

"Fight back, survive, be strong," she said. "Although you go through post-traumatic stress disorder, there is light at the end of the tunnel."

Ray has been in jail for nearly three years, so he'll likely spend the next 12 years in prison. After that, mental health experts will evaluate him and decide what's next. Ray has a history of mental illness, so they may decide he needs to stay in a mental health facility.