(CBS) - When Jeannie McDonough went to sleep on July 29, 2007, little did she know that by morning's light she and her brave family would be regarded as heroes who would ultimately save lives and clear the name of an innocent man suspected of murder. McDonough recounts her family's harrowing story of survival in "Caught in the Act." (Pub. date March 1, 2011)
The close-knit McDonoughs - father, Kevin, mother Jeannie, daughter Shea, 15, and her brother Ryan, 18 - were from Chelmsford, Mass., a town 30 miles outside of Boston. On an oppressively hot summer night Shea left the back door unlocked for her brother, not knowing he was spending the night elsewhere. Hours later, an intruder took advantage.
Shea awakened to find a masked man holding a knife to her neck, threatening to kill her if she made any noise. She did so anyway, bringing her parents into her room. What ensued was a life and death struggle. Kevin jumped on top of the intruder; Jeannie grabbed the knife, and cut her hands. Shea ran to call 911. Kevin put the intruder in a choke hold and pulled him to the floor.
After police arrived and subdued the attacker, they learned his name was Adam Leroy Lane. It was by no means the North Carolina trucker's first attack - the McDonough family had survived an encounter with a serial killer.
He had victims in two other states, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
"Caught in the Act" is the McDonough family's improbable story: how they survived and brought down a serial killer, how they saved a man who was wrongfully accused, and how three families became forever linked.
Interview with Jeannie McDonough by Chris Young, producer at 48 Hours | Mystery
Why did you decide to write the book, "Caught in the Act"?
I wrote the book as a way to help me come to grips with the events of July 30, 2007. The enormity of the situation was overwhelming. Documenting the experience was therapeutic and provided me with the opportunity to verbalize my thoughts and emotions.
What reservations did you have in writing this book?
I had two major reservations about writing the book. The first was that I would possibly cause further anguish to the families of the victims by revisiting the horrific details surrounding the violent manner of their loved ones' murder.
I was also concerned that my intentions would be misconstrued and that people would think that the driving force behind this book was for monetary gain. Trust me when I say, that was not my focus. Writing this book was merely my way of dealing with an unfathomable situation.
You write about the many relationships you made because of a "connection that we all felt as a result of being tormented by this guy." Tell us about those relationships and how they changed your life.
Unfortunately the events that happened during those weeks of July 2007 brought many families together. How I wish I could have prevented what happened to those women and the effect their murders had on their families! We have all been tied together because of the heinous and life-altering path of one deranged individual.
Had this not happened I never would have met Fay and Frank Massaro, Monica's parents. How blessed she was to have them as parents and how blessed in return they were to have her in their lives. Such a tragedy that it was snatched away from them all. Darlene Ewalt's daughter and her family were robbed of her goodness and laughter. I have developed such a fondness for all of them.
So easily my husband and I could be standing in their shoes. I am also reminded daily about the law enforcement professionals that I have come to admire and respect that have worked tirelessly and with such dedication. The friendship that I have with George Tyros and Geoff Noble has been fostered through this long and painful journey. Not to mention that there are numerous individuals that have touched me and changed me throughout this process and I know they know who they are!
What good do you hope can come from getting this story out there? What do you want your readers to come away with?
There are several things I would like my readers to come away with when they read this story. The first is that the unexpected happens. Violent crime happens everywhere even in small towns and friendly communities. It only takes a second. Safeguard yourself as much as you can; lock your doors. Strange and often times demented people can and do walk in off the street. Nobody is insulated from the possibility of experiencing their worst nightmare.
Another thing that haunts me to this day is that if we had rolled over and gone back to sleep, our daughter wouldn't be here today. We got up and checked on her even though she was right in the next room and 15 years old. I can't count the number of times while our children were growing up that we had thought that whatever nightmare they were having would pass if we just gave them a few moments. Thank God, we didn't do that this time.
Trust your gut, if you feel something isn't right, then it probably isn't. The final thing that I really need people to realize is that we were a family fighting to survive. We were the fortunate ones and were able to walk away in one piece. With that comes the knowledge and emotional burden of knowing that others were not.
There were two beautiful and vibrant women; women who were deeply loved and cherished by their families and the hole that has been left in the wake of Lane's path is devastating. Not to mention that there was another innocent victim besides our daughter that almost perished at the hands of Adam Leroy Lane. Patricia Brooks helped solve those crimes in Pennsylvania because she had the strength and determination to survive and identify her attacker. I truly hope, that in some small way, I was able to give them all a voice.
How is your daughter Shea doing and how has this experience changed your relationships with her and with your husband, Kevin?
Kevin and I are blessed to have each other and not a day goes by that we don't know it. Sometimes I look over at him in awe and think about what he was able to do for his family one hot night in July three years ago. Because of his strength and quick reactions, our children are doing very well and have weathered the storm better than anyone would expect. Shea is a strong and resilient young woman who still sees the good in people. She hasn't allowed the events of the past to taint her perspective toward life and the gift that it is. Our relationship is closer than ever and I am constantly learning and growing myself just by watching how she and her brother are navigating their way in this world. Part of growing as a parent as well as a human being is trusting in what we have taught our children and believing that they are capable of finding their own way even when sometimes we may question their path.
Do you ever think about the killer Adam Leroy Lane? And if you do, what do you think about?
It is hard not to think about Adam Leroy Lane; this psychopath that just walked into our lives three years ago and wreaked havoc. But honestly, I really don't give him too much thought. He is where he should be. In prison - the rest of his life. I once said that in the end it really is between him and God. May God be as merciless as Lane was when he took the lives of those innocent women.
How satisfying was it to see this story to the end ... Do you feel like now you can move on?
I don't believe that I will ever really move on. Not a day goes by that I don't think about what was taken from so many in an instant. I will forever be connected to Monica Massaro and Darlene Ewalt and I can't help but thank them because I know they helped give us the strength we needed in our moment of need. It has been extremely satisfying seeing this process through to the end and being present at all of Lane's sentencings. What happened in July 2007 has altered me and become a part of who I am today but it hasn't defeated me. If anything, it has empowered me, and in that sense I do find satisfaction. Sometimes it takes the most unlikely situation to help us realize what we truly are capable of.
About the Author
Jeannie McDonough was born in Boston and grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts. In 1985, she married her high school sweetheart, Kevin McDonough. They have a son, Ryan, and a daughter, Shea.