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'Paradise' Lost: Woman Seeks Her Would-Be Killer

by Melissa Block
Jul 13, 2006 (All Things Considered)

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In the summer of 1977, two young women — college roommates from Yale — started out on a cross-country bike trip. They planned to ride from Oregon to Virginia.

Just seven days after they set off, they were savagely attacked: While they camped in Oregon, a man ran over their tent with his truck, then set upon them with an ax.

In Strange Piece of Paradise, Terri Jentz chronicles her own follow-up investigation into the attempt on her life so many years ago — a crime that had gone uncharged in subsequent years.

The attack left Jentz with severe injuries. The truck crushed a lung and broke her arm, collarbone and ribs. One of the bones in her arm was sliced through, and she had gashes all over her scalp and arms.

Her roommate's skull was hit half a dozen times, and she suffered permanent damage to her vision.

While the two women survived the attack, their friendship did not. And over the years, Jentz felt lasting effects of the trauma, through rage, fear and denial.

In 1992 — 15 years after the attack — Jentz went back to Central Oregon. No one had ever been charged with the crime. She wanted to find out why — and to repair her fractured sense of self.

Jentz was in for yet another shock when she returned to the community where the attack took place: When she started talking to local residents, they said the same thing: "We know who did this."

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Poem Immortalizes Attack

In 1977, the brutal attack in Oregon on Terri Jentz and her college roommate made newspaper headlines across the country and became a part of An Explanation of America, a book-length poem by Robert Pinsky, a former U.S. poet laureate. In today's paper, you see the teen-aged girl / From down the street; camping in Oregon / At the far point of a trip across the country, / Together with another girl her age, / They suffered and survived a random evil.

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