To Hell And Back

Brave Teens Fight Back Against Abductor

In the summer of 2002, which was filled with terrifying child kidnappings, the daring escape of Tamara Brooks and Jacque Marris delivered hope.

Police have called this case a blueprint for survival.

Just over a year since they were abducted, Jacque Marris, 17, reveals stunning details about the chances she and Tamara took to survive - and the decisions they made that bought them time.

Correspondent Peter Van Sant reports on the dramatic events that forever changed the lives of these two women on this 48 Hours Investigates interview which first aired Jan. 31, 2003.


In some ways, Jacque Marris is a typical California teen. The oldest of three children, she was a determined student, a cheerleader and a surfer.

In other ways, though, she was also remarkable. This is her story.

"I was alive. I had my life back. And the bad guy was dead," says Jacque. "I know how close I was to death."

Jacque's incredible story of survival began on Quartz Hill, a popular hangout overlooking the city of Palmdale, Calif.

It was after midnight, and Jacque was nearing her curfew, enjoying the view with Frank Melero. Then, out of nowhere, Melero says he felt a gun to his head.

Holding that gun was Roy Dean Ratliff, a fugitive wanted for rape. He demanded money and ordered Frank Melero and Jacque Marris to put their heads down. They smelled alcohol on his breath and heard duct tape unwinding.

"One second, he was calm, and then out of nowhere he starts getting mad!" says Melero. "He was like, 'You think I'll kill you?' And I was like 'Yeah, you'll kill me. You got the gun, you'll kill me.'"

Ratliff taped Melero to the driver's seat. He then started taping Jacque but the tape ran out. Blindfolded and hobbled, she was led to a Bronco parked nearby.

Once inside the back seat, Jacque Marris saw a pair of legs. At first, she thought it was a dead body. But the legs belonged to Tamara Brooks, a 16-year old honor student who was alive.

The two girls had never met.

When the Bronco drove off, Melero freed himself and called for help on his cell phone. He saw another guy, Eric Brown, who also had been taped up.

"He told me he was going to kill but he didn't want to," says Brown, 18, who was with Tamara when the abduction took place. "He wanted the truck."

Ratliff had carjacked Brown's Bronco and taken Tamara hostage. He later drove the two teenagers just a few miles from Quartz Hill.

"Imagine your worst nightmare," says Jacque.



According to Det. Fred McNutt, Ratliff was armed with two guns and ammunition. Police later confirmed that both girls were sexually assaulted.

Ratliff promised to take the girls back to Quartz Hill, but he didn't. They drove for 30 minutes or more in the dead of night. When they finally stopped, they were allowed to remove their blindfolds.

Ratliff's behavior shifted from extreme cruelty to seeming kindness. "He would become very caring and compassionate and then seconds later he might be holding a gun saying, 'I'll kill you if you don't do this,'" says McNutt.

At one point, Jacque's door was left open a crack. She had a chance to escape but refused to leave Tamara behind: "I didn't know what he was gonna do to Tamara, if he would hurt her, more than he already had."

When they started driving again, Jacque silently grabbed Tamara's hand. They dared not speak, so Jacque spelled out words on Tamara's palm, one letter at a time.

Her first words: "Need a plan."

Tamara wrote back: "knife"

Eric Brown kept a bowie knife in his Bronco, and the girls decided that Jacque would try to use the knife the first chance she got.

"There was no way I wasn't going down without a fight, because that would have been stupid of me," says Jacque. "How can you not fight for your life?"

Lying across the back seat, her hands tied, Jacque watched one mile bleed into the next. There was a rope around her neck - binding her to Tamara Brooks.

Just after daybreak, they pulled onto a remote dirt road in the Mojave Desert, 130 miles from Quartz Hill.

Ratliff loaded and fired two guns into the empty canyon. "We had to do something," says Jacque, who thought he was going to kill them. "Then or you know, never."

Ratliff then turned his attention to the knife in the car. He ran his fingers over the blade, but before he had a chance to use it, a night of heavy drinking took its toll, and he fell asleep.

"This is the time to do whatever we're going to do to get away," says Jacque.

Jacque and Tamara struggled to get free from the rope and duct tape that bound them. Jacque actually licked hers off: "If you lick duct tape, it's not adhesive anymore and it just comes off."

Ratliff was asleep, with a gun in his lap. If they ran, he could easily shoot them. But Jacque saw the knife on the console, and a bottle of whiskey on the front seat.

Silently, they mouthed a plan of attack. Jacque would stab him, and Tamara would hit him with the bottle.

"I'm so scared. What if he wakes up," says Jacque. "What happens if this doesn't work? Is God ever going to forgive us for this?"

Silently, the girls got hold of the knife and whiskey bottle. Jacque hesitated, not sure she could stab Ratliff.

But then, Ratliff's eye flickered.

What happens next? Find out in Part II.