48 Hours Live to Tell: The Railroad Killer

The lone survivor of a serial killer on a multi-state killing spree tells her story

Last Updated Sep 9, 2011 8:28 PM EDT

Produced by Lourdes Aguiar and Michael McHugh

This story originally aired Dec. 11, 2010.

What if someone wanted you dead... but you lived to tell?

At age 20, college junior Holly Dunn came face-to-face with an infamous serial killer who earned his nickname by choosing victims along the railroad tracks. After being raped, beaten and stabbed, Holly somehow found the will to survive. She would learn that her attacker was responsible for a multi-state killing spree. The race was on to find him before he killed again.

Heather Dunn Niemeier, Holly's sister: I began writing as a process of healing. ...The writing, I found, really helped me deal with what had happened.

Heather reads: "Since as far back as I can remember, I've had the same dream. I'm running. I was constantly running away from someone. We lived on 13 acres. So, I could never get someone to hear my screams or run fast enough. I would run down the hill of the front to our house across the fields.

There were many mornings that I would wake up after a night of running all night in my dreams. But, then run down the stairs to play with my younger sister. We had a great time growing up together. We had that special bond that you hear people talk about. We were so close.

[Aug. 29, 1997] I didn't get to hear the answering machine until I got home that night. ...I remember there being an oddly high number of calls. But three of the messages were from my dad.

The room was dark and she woke up [at University of Kentucky Medical Center]. She was lying on her side and I put my head to her face and just held her. It was there that she told me the worst story that I had heard in my life. Maybe this is what I had been running from in all those dreams as a child - this horrific story that happened to my sister."

Holly Dunn, Heather's sister: In late August 1997, I was a student at the University of Kentucky. It was about the second night of classes. It was a Thursday night. And I went to a party with my boyfriend, Chris Maier, not far from campus. It was a little bit boring, so we packed up Chris' backpack with some beers, and we were gonna head down to the tracks.

We sat there and talked for a while, I'm not sure how long, but we got up to leave and go back to the party. And we started walking along the tracks. And when we got to an electrical box beside the tracks a man came out from behind it. He asked us for money. We of course said, "We don't have any money, we're poor college kids".

And I don't know if it was an ice pick, if it was a screwdriver, but he had it on Chris the whole time. He asked Chris to get down on his hands and knees... He went through his backpack and didn't find anything that he wanted. And I didn't realize it, but he was tying up Chris' hands with the backpack... behind his back.

And he took off my belt and tied up my hands behind my back with my belt. And he actually pulled Chris from the tracks, on the gravel, into the grass beside the tracks. In my head, I was panicking. And I was like saying my last prayer. And thinking, "I'm going to die."

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