48 Hours Mystery: Escape from a serial killer

Lone survivor of sadistic killer Andrew Urdiales describes death-defying getaway

Produced by Katherine Davis
[This story originally aired on Oct. 23, 2010]

On Sept. 27, 1992, Jennifer Asbenson was 19 years old and working at a home for crippled children.

"I was working the night shift there from 10 p.m. until 6 in the morning... I went to the bus stop to catch the bus to go to work. I had run in the store to buy something and I saw that the bus had left without me, so I came running out in a panic. I knew that was the last bus for the night. I had no way to get to work.

"Somebody pulled up in a car and just said, 'Hey, do you need a ride?'"

The man, she says, looked "totally harmless."

"And I didn't feel any sense of fear. When I got in the car he was so nice and so charming."

"That's what makes him evil is that you don't see it right away," says Cook County Prosecutor Jim McKay of the man in the car. "He is smarter than you average serial killer. He learned as he killed..."

McKay says the man was waiting for Jennifer when she got off of work the next morning.

"Well, the next morning when I saw him, I wasn't scared," she tells "48 Hours Mystery" correspondent Susan Spencer. "My thought was, 'This guy is not dangerous. If he wanted to do something to me he had his chance last night.' And he said, 'Let me give you a ride home.' I opened the door and I got in the car."

The pleasant stranger who'd picked Jennifer up had suddenly snapped.

"When I was just in the middle of talking... he just grabs me by the hair and he just shoved my head into the dash. He had a gun to my head... And the whole time I was saying, 'Is this a joke? Is this is a joke?' And all he would say was 'Shut up bitch. Shut up bitch.'"

"He's angry. When he gets angry the evil side comes out," McKay says. "An explosive temper... a hater of women... and as violent and as evil as you will ever see."

"And he had a knife. And he pulled out twine... wrapped the twine around my hands," Jennifer continues. "Then I just saw telephone poles. Each telephone pole that went by I just got more scared and more scared, 'cause we were going further and further and deeper into that desert. And I just felt doomed. I didn't know what was going to happen."

Now, an apparent madman held her hostage in the California desert.

"I was just in a state of shock. And so I tried to think, 'How can I get out of this situation?' And I had no answer.

"I knew he was gonna to hurt me. Rape, definitely. Definitely I knew that... And then he, uh, finally parked and shut off the car. He used the knife to cut my shorts off of me. Then he cut my underwear off. He climbed into my seat. And he just started punching me in the head."

The man beat her and then forced her to perform oral sex. He tried to rape her, but couldn't.

And then he just told me to tell him that I loved him. Of course I was gonna, if that would save my life. So I said 'I love you,' and he smacked me across the face and said, "You're lying bitch. Say it like you mean it." And I said "I love you," and he said "You're lying. Say it like you mean it."

"And he grabbed my underwear and he shoved them in my throat," she recalls, crying at the memory. "His whole fist went in my mouth and he's yelling at me, 'Tell me you love me! Tell me you love me!' And I just started crying."

"You felt like if you could say it right that he might stop?" Susan Spencer asks.

"Yeah," Jennifer replies. But says she knew he wasn't going to stop.

"So now he's mad. He grabs me by the throat and he starts strangling me. And then suddenly I couldn't see anything. And I felt like I heard music and it was just white. I thought I was dead."

Moments later, she was jolted back to reality.

"He was trying to revive me. He was bashing me around, pushing my chest. And I just came back into it like you do when you think you fall asleep and then wake up. And I just thought, 'Oh gosh, I'm back in this nightmare again!' And I wanted to die because there was no other way of getting outta there."

But then suddenly, she says, there was a way out.

"He opens my door and he tells me to get out. And I just thought, 'Run!' The next thing I knew I was flung onto the ground by my hair. And he pulled me by my hair all the way back to the car."

With that, Jennifer lost all hope and even begged her attacker to put her out of her misery.

"I just wanted it to end. I said, 'Kill me," she says, demonstrating how he put the gun to her head. "And he pulled the thing back and I went - I was getting ready- and nothing happened. And then I just started screaming at him, 'Kill me moron! Just kill me!'"

But he toyed with her like a cat with a mouse; dragged her to the back of the car and opened the trunk.

"He threw me in there and shut it. And he started driving down the road. And then I was thinking, 'He's done this before. He knows exactly what he's doing.'"

What Jennifer didn't know at the time, was that in fact, her attacker had done this before.

Six years earlier, on the evening of Jan. 18, 1986, a popular, outgoing 23-year-old named Robbin Brandley was working as an usher at a jazz concert at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Calif.

"She just was always, like, willing to just lend a hand for anybody," says Robbin's brother, Jayeson Brandley.

Robbin's brother and her parents, Jack and Genelle Reilley, agree Robbin was a go-getter with big dreams.

"She loved to make people laugh. She was intelligent, inquisitive. She had a lot of friends," says Genelle.

"She ultimately, I think, wanted to work in the entertainment industry," says Jayeson.

"She was bound and determined," Jack says. "She was gonna make a mark."

After the concert that January night, Robbin walked toward her car, but she never got there. In the dark parking lot, someone was waiting with a knife.

"She was found by a security guard at the college. And he noticed something that he believed to be a mannequin laying by a car. And, of course, at closer inspection is when he found Robbin," says Helen Moreno, who was a supervising investigator with the Orange County D.A.'s Office. "She had been stabbed 41 times it was later determined."

Forty-one stab wounds to the back, neck, chest and hands.

"It was so unexplained and it was so random and it was so brutal," Moreno says. "And there was no evidence at all that there was any robbery. ...her purse was there. Her keys were laying right there by the scene."

Early the next morning, a police officer knocked on the Reilley's door.

"He said, 'She's been murdered.' And it was just a total shock," Jack recalls. "And I said, 'Well, who did it?' And he said, ''We have no idea.'"

Orange County Deputy D.A. Howard Gundy says there was nothing at the crime scene that was of any help in terms of identifying a perpetrator.

"So he basically came in from the darkness of the night, attacked quickly, suddenly, violently. There was no way that she could resist," Gundy says. "And then he went back into the darkness of the night."

Unfortunately for investigators, there were no witnesses. Months passed, then years. Robbin's parents tried desperately to keep her story alive.

"We figured we'd have to solve the case ourselves," Jack says.

They hired a private investigator - even believed the murderer might be a fellow student - but nothing at all was found.

Over the years, Robbin Brandley's sadistic killer would go on to kill again and again. But, of course, no one knew that as Jennifer Asbenson lay, terrified, in the stifling trunk of that same killer's car.