FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – Police say a Fort Collins teacher is lucky to be alive after a man hid in her basement for 26 hours before stabbing her 16 times. Detectives with Fort Collins Police Services said Eilish Poe, the victim, is likely only alive today because she decided to play dead while her ex-boyfriend attacked her.
According to police records obtained first by CBS4's Dillon Thomas, 25-year-old Jonathan Crossley broke in to Poe's home while she was at work on Nov. 3, 2020. Investigators believe he camped out in her crawlspace for at least 24 hours while Poe and her roommate were at home at times.
On Nov. 4, 911 dispatchers in Fort Collins received a call for help from Poe soon after she returned home from work. She was pleading for help and told dispatch that her ex-boyfriend, Crossley, had just stabbed her multiple times.
When officers arrived on scene in the recently-built home in northeastern Colorado they found Poe lying in a pool of blood at the base of a staircase. She told officers she couldn't feel her arms and had to use voice commands to ask iPhone's "Siri" to call 911 for her.
Poe was rushed to Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, where she was treated for 16 stab wounds between her neck, torso and arms. Police cleared and processed the scene. Crossley was nowhere to be found, but traces of blood left behind suggested he ran from the home and jumped a fence.
"She was left to die," said Dustin Weir, lead detective on the investigation.
In the hospital, police asked Poe to describe what happened. She told officers that Crossley attacked her from behind as she was trying to clean her pet rabbit's cage. She was walking down the stairs to get more litter box pellets when suddenly Crossley turned the corner and pounced. Poe told officers she pleaded with Crossley to stop, and even told him what he was doing didn't need to happen. However, she said Crossley kept stabbing her with no comment.
Eventually, Poe decided to play dead.
"Her decision to do that may have saved her life," Weir said.
Soon after she pretended to be dead Crossley got up and ran from the home. Poe laid in her own blood with her eyes shut until she was confident he was no longer home. Unable to move her arms sufficiently, she called out to Siri to call 911.
While Poe described what happened shortly after the attack officers were already searching for Crossley. Pings of his phone showed he was making his way away from the attack scene and toward the foothills and Horsetooth Reservoir.
His vehicle was found parked near an Enterprise Rental center, and officers were able to confirm he had rented a vehicle earlier in the week. That vehicle was found the next day in Lory State Park near the trailhead for Arthur's Rock.
Soon after, Crossley was found deceased at the base of a 150 foot cliff. His death was ruled a suicide.
In the weeks to follow much was unveiled about Crossley's mental state in his final weeks of life. By combining Poe's recollection of their relationship with cell phone and journal records it was made clear Crossley was depressed and slowly growing unhinged.
A warrant for Google records showed Crossley was researching topics on his phone involving how the COVID-19 pandemic could impact a relationship. His searches on Reddit included some looking in to why and how the pandemic caused other couples to split. He also expressed concerns to friends, via text, that he couldn't move to a new city without having trouble meeting new people amid COVID lockdowns.
His phone records also showed he was, at times, lurking in the area of Poe's home during the mornings leading up to the attack. Pings suggested he was in, our around, Poe's home for at least 24 hours before the violent attack. Poe, and her roommate, were in the home at times unaware he was with them.
Poe said her roommate was also a victim of the invasion. The night before the attack Crossley was hiding in the home while her roommate vulnerably slept upstairs unaware of his presence. Evidence suggested Crossley was walking around the home at times.
During the initial investigation officers searched the crawlspace of Poe's home.
"Inside the crawlspace we located a bottle of water, snacks, a blanket. They indicated he had been in there for some time," Weir said.
The window for the crawlspace was open and the screen for the window was cut.
Weir said it is believed Crossley entered the home through the window and waited for his opportunity to carry out the attack.
Video evidence from stores like Target showed Crossley entering stores and buying the food and other items he used to camp out in the crawl space.
Poe, 23 years old at the time of the attack, spent weeks in and out of the hospital. Officers with Fort Collins Police described her as a strong, charismatic, loving and incredible woman.
"Eilish was an incredibly strong victim," Weir said.
Her friends and family set up a GoFundMe account with the hope of raising $50,000 to help with medical bills and other financial burdens.
Though she had to take time off work, Poe was thrilled to tell CBS4's Dillon Thomas that she returned for her first day of classes on Feb. 23.
"I'm thrilled to be back with my students," Poe said.
Weir said Poe's composure during the terrifying attack, and ability to play dead, helped her have that opportunity to get back and help children in the classroom.
"All the decisions she made during the course of the attack, and all the actions she took, she had a hand in saving her own life," Weir said.
Fort Collins Police has recently made it a mission to offer more services for those experiencing mental crisis and/or domestic violence. The department has launched a Mental Health Response Team that can be dispatched out to any situation which could be diffused with the help of a first responder specifically trained in mental health issues.
"No-one should ever feel subjected to continuing a relationship where they feel threatened. Intimidated or isolated from their loved ones," said John Feyen, Assistant Chief of FCPS. "Law enforcement can help, and there are many resources in our community."
FCPS encouraged anyone with an issue to call their dispatch, where they can then notify mental health experts to respond. Or, one can reach out to Crossroads Safe House for assistance.
"When people think of domestic violence, they often think of physical abuse. Many ask why victims don't leave relationships that have reached this point. Unhealthy situations rarely start out with overt physical violence," said FCPS Chief Jeff Swaboda. "More often, it starts out with verbal abuse and psychological manipulation. By the time things escalate to physical violence, abusers have constructed a coercive cage around the victim that makes leaving the situation incredibly challenging. Paired with additional factors like financial control, housing uncertainty and custody concerns, it can feel virtually impossible to leave."
Though Crossley may have taken actions to try and end Poe's life, his efforts failed. The resilient teacher rang in 2021 in the hospital, but is now back on the path to thriving as an independent and stronger-than-ever woman.
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