12 years later, woman speaks about abduction

As teen she got away from man now serving 40-year sentence for kidnapping

Heather Kangas speaks about being abducted 12 years ago.
Heather Kangas speaks about being abducted 12 years ago.

MAXVILLE, Fla. – It's been 12 years since a 13-year-old girl was abducted in Clay County, taken from her bus stop in the early morning hours of Valentine's Day.

She was shoved into the back of a car and handcuffed in Clay Hill. The girl managed to break free and threw herself out of the moving car.

Heather Kangas, who is now 26, has rarely told her terrifying story publicly. But she spoke to Channel 4 on Thursday.

Kangas said her heart breaks over the fact that a Clay County teen lied about being taken two days ago. Ankita Lavender, 16, lives just one town away from where Kangas was abducted.

Kangas said that is why she was ready to share her story, because she wants everyone to know that staging an abduction is disrespectful and demeans true victims.

Kangas said she often times wishes she could forget what happened to her.

"It's something I think about on a daily basis. It's in the back of my mind most of the time," she said. "When he first got out and put a gun on my back, he pretty much shoved me into the backseat. From there he handcuffed me and crawled over the seats and jumped in the car and took off."

Kangas still has scars that detail what happened that day in 2002, when she forced her right hand out of the cuff, opened the door and jumped out of a moving car.

"I didn't think about how fast the car was going," Kangas said. "I didn't think about what was going to happen next. I knew I just wanted out."

"I could have scratched him. I could have gotten some type of DNA, a better description, there's so many things that you think of after the fact, but when it's happening, you're just like, 'Wow, (get me out of here),'" Kangas said.

VIDEO FROM THE ARCHIVES: Channel 4 2002 report on bus stop abduction

That's why she can't understand why anyone would fake something so horrifying. On Tuesday, the Clay County Sheriff's Office went on a massive search for Lavender, who told her dad she had been taken by two men in a white truck. Not even 24 hours later, officials said Lavender admitted to crafting the entire story.

"It hurts my heart. It really does," Kangas said. "It upset me because these things are real. And if you cry wolf, nobody is going to come to you when you need them. And with it happening to me and how surreal the situation is and how much it can hurt, there's no reason, absolutely no reason to fake that type of thing."


The man who abducted Kangas, Timothy Oberlander (pictured in 2003 booking photo), was convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Kangas said she remembers grabbing the door handle when she escaped the car. She said it was broken but had a little bit of plastic left. It was that door handle that connected Oberlander to the crime.

Oberlander was also tied to an attempted abduction of a 10-year-old Jacksonville girl in 2003. Kangas has never met her.

"I would (want to reach out to her) just because we share that same experience," Kangas said. "I get told a lot you know, I've never met anyone that's had that happen to them. It's different, It's a different experience that will stay with me forever."

"My security, that was gone. My faith in humanity, in other people, it was gone for a while," Kangas said. "It is hard for me to trust people, but yeah, he stole a part of me that I won't get back."

Kangas now has two children and said she hopes they'll use her experience to protect themselves.