After Mischelle Lawless Murder Story, Self-Defense Expert John Perkins Shares Survival Rules of Road

Angela Mischelle Lawless was murdered in 1992 in Benton, Mo.
Personal Photo
John Perkins
John Perkins (Personal Photo)

NEW YORK (CBS) The case of Angela Mischelle Lawless, a murdered 19-year-old whose story was told on 48 Hours | Mystery on Saturday, has focused attention on the potential dangers of strangers on the road and how to defend against them.

"48 Hours: The Girl Who Knew Too Much"

Authorities believe Lawless was murdered in 1992, in Benton, Mo., after she pulled her car to the side of the road, possibly having recognized her pursuers, and got out of the vehicle, as an argument or fight began.

Mischelle Lawless
Angela Mischelle Lawless (Personal Photo)

Crimesider asked former cop and self defense expert John Perkins for practical advice on smart ways to stay safe.

Rules of the Road

1: Never stop (much less leave your car) for anyone except an obviously marked police car.

2: Never stop for people who give you a "bad feeling" even if you know them.

3: If you suspect someone's impersonating an officer (a common ruse) call 911.

4: Always keep a cell phone charger in your car so that you never get stuck with a dead phone battery.

How to Stay Safe After an Accident

If someone signals you to pull over or you're involved in a minor accident that leaves your car drivable, turn on your hazard lights, signal the other car with your hand to follow you and drive to a secure or well populated area. Make it impossible for a criminal to isolate you.

Never get out of your car or unlock the doors. Keep the engine running and gearshift in drive, foot on the brake. Crack your window just enough to exchange insurance information. If the potential criminal attempts to get in your car, pulls a weapon, etc., floor the gas pedal.

Remember: your safety first, their feelings second. Forget about appearing "rude."

If you have a flat, etc., drive to a safer location. A ruined rim is less valuable than your life. Refuse any offers of help from non-uniformed people and unmarked cars. Anyone who pulls over to "help" is very likely an opportunistic criminal.

Run or Fight?

If your car is immobilized and a criminal is about to force entry, and you have neither a gun nor a knife, exit the vehicle on the opposite side just as he enters and RUN. Run along the edge of the highway, visible to cars and police, towards the nearest populated location. If he catches you, hopefully you've had reality-based self defense training that's not from a McDojo. A sturdy metal pen can be stabbed into the eyes and throat. If you must fight bare-handed, gouge deep into the eyes; chop or rip into the windpipe. Bite deeply into any available flesh. This is your life we're talking about and you do not want to be abducted to a second location from which it is doubtful you'll ever be rescued and survive.


If you are car-jacked anyway and remain unrestrained, wait until you're doing at least 30 mph and do whatever it takes (regardless of whether you or the carjacker is driving) and crash the car into something hard. Criminals lose interest in you rapidly in an accident.

Final Tips

1: Pull over for no one.

2: Call 911 at the slightest hint of danger.

3: Fight for your life NOW.

4: Never let your attacker take you anywhere.

John Perkins
John Perkins was a New York police officer, including a homicide investigator, for 22 years. He is a martial arts expert who trains US marines, FBI agents and federal air marshals in self-defense. Perkins is the founder of Inc., which specializes in teaching self-defense.