Florida father told 14-year-old daughter to drive her younger siblings home as he abducted their mother
Arden Summers will never forget the time, as a 14-year-old — and at the direction of her father — sitting behind the wheel of a minivan with three of her four younger siblings as she drove into the darkness in March 2017.
Earlier that day, Arden had helped her father, Trevor Summers, enter the Valrico, Florida, home of his estranged wife, Alisa Mathewson — where he was not allowed. Arden had left a window open so he could enter the home.
Trevor had convinced Arden he needed her help so he could talk to Alisa about getting back together. But what Arden didn't know is that his plans were far more sinister. Trevor's attempt to reconcile turned out to be a 55-hour ordeal for Alisa. Arden, now 20-years-old, said the guilt of playing a role in what happened to her mother — even though at the time she did not realize she was being manipulated — has weighed heavily on her for years.
"I've had so many issues with trusting people after what happened, and just the guilt that I lived with for so long before I finally told myself that this isn't my fault" Arden told "48 Hours" correspondent Peter Van Sant in an interview for this week's broadcast, "Alisa Mathewson's Night Terrors," airing Saturday, April 22, at 10/9 c on CBS and streaming on Paramount+.
In early 2017, Alisa and Trevor's marriage had deteriorated and both had filed restraining orders against one another. Alisa had moved to a place of her own and they were sharing custody of their five children. Arden, the eldest, didn't want her family to fall apart.
"I was really hoping that, you know, my family would be back together and healthy and fixed," Arden said.
Arden said back then she admired her father and had a great relationship with him.
"We would go out on little dates together, go out for dinners, just him and I, or grocery shopping," she said.
When Trevor asked her to help him in his mission to get Alisa back, she didn't think twice.
Trevor enlisted Arden and Landen, her 12-year-old brother, to help him reunite with their mother. The plan was for Arden to go to Alisa's home with two of her siblings, 7-year-old Bryn and 5-year-old Grady. Once they all went to sleep, Arden would let Trevor know and he would come in through a window she'd leave open for him.
At around 1 a.m. on March 11, 2017, Arden told her father the coast was clear and left the house through the same window Trevor climbed into minutes later. Arden joined Landen, who was sitting in Trevor's car down the street. Arden hoped that by the end of her parents' conversation, everyone would come out and they would all drive together back to the home they used to share as a family, and where her 3-year-old brother Cooper was left sleeping alone.
As Arden and Landen waited in the car, Trevor turned Alisa into a hostage, tying her up with different objects around the house, including Christmas lights and a vacuum cord, and putting a sock in her mouth to stop her from screaming. He dragged Alisa out of her bedroom, where she was sleeping with Bryn and Grady, and began tormenting her.
At around 5 a.m., Trevor asked Arden to come inside and get her young siblings, but when she walked into the house she didn't notice anything was off. She believed her parents were talking things out, and assumed the conversation was taking longer than expected. Trevor then asked Arden to drive her three siblings back to his house, even though her only prior driving experience was in a parking lot for 20 minutes.
"This was very scary to have three kids in a car with me at the age of 14, driving 30 minutes" Arden told "48 Hours."
When asked if she thought it was irresponsible of her father to ask her to drive, she responded: "I was too concerned about Cooper waking up and finding nobody home to actually really worry about it. I wanted to do whatever I could to get to Cooper."
Arden and her siblings made it to their father's home without incident and found Cooper was just waking up. Meanwhile Alisa's nightmare was just beginning. Over the course of the next 55 hours, Trevor placed Alisa into her own vehicle and sexually assaulted her. On two occasions he tried to kill her — once trying to suffocate her with a pillow, and another time by strangling her with a rope.
Trevor was captured and Alisa rescued when their vehicle was spotted by authorities.
At his trial in August 2022, he was found guilty of kidnapping, two counts of attempted murder, two counts of sexual battery, four counts of child neglect, grand theft auto and violating a restraining order.
During Summers' sentencing, Arden read her victim impact statement. She told Judge Christopher Sabella that she felt guilty for what her father had done to her mother and resented him for betraying her trust by making her believe he was trying to reunite their family.
But with his sentencing came closure: "Now I stand here today stronger than I was before ready for the sickening chapter to end … I am ready, ready for the end. For the peace of mind. I may no longer be a child, but I can allow my inner child to heal."
Before sentencing Summers to three life sentences followed by another 224 years in prison, the judge told Arden, "You should not feel guilty for anything that you did in this case. I assure you of that."
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