Alone in the small mobile home, she felt safe enough; she had been there many times and knew a lot of the people in the park. In fact, her friend, Wesley Smith had just taken a neighbor to the store before going ahead to a pool tournament he was playing in Goose Creek.
Kandies heard a soft knock at the door.
Thinking it was the young woman who lived across the street, Kandies went to open the door.
That’s when all hell broke loose, she said.
The door burst open violently and a man – the same neighbor Smith had taken to the store a little while earlier -_- rushed into the room, grabbed Kandies, threw her against the couch, and tried to sexually assault her, she said.
Kandies was supposed to be at the pool tournament with Smith. However, she had just received the news that her sister had unexpectedly passed away. Distraught and distracted, she told Smith to go ahead, that she needed to be alone and she would meet him later.
Instead, the feisty grandmother found herself in the fight of her life. Kandies, a private investigator, owns a gun and had it with her -_- in fact it was on a nearby table -_- but she could not reach it in time.
“He was on top of me,” she said. “He kept trying to kiss me, and kept pounding my head with his head. I kept moving my head back and forth, and he bit my lip. When he bit my lip, I knew I was in trouble.”
Kandies said she kept telling him to stop, that he didn’t want to do this; he apparently had other things on his mind.
“He said, ‘I pay you money,’” she said. “That was a direct insult – I really started fighting.”
With her attacker still on top of her trying to butt her head with his own, his hands under her shirt and in her pants and his saliva on her cheeks, she renewed her efforts. Before she knew it, she was remembering training from self-defense classes she took one summer nearly three decades ago.
“I remembered some Ju-Jit-Su from a self defense class I took through the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office back in the 1970s,” she said. “I remembered what they told me.”
She said she remembered her instructor, Darrell Sanders telling her to use an arm to push under an attacker’s chin, which she did. While she was unable to take a shot at her attacker’s throat, she did hit him on the side of the head. She was then able to get a knee between them and push her attacker away. She pushed so violently he fell against the door and rolled out onto the front stoop. She was then able to rush to the door and lock it. She called her boyfriend; then she called 9-11.
Berkeley County Sheriff’s Deputies arrived on the scene and soon arrested Federico Reyes, 30-year-old Hispanic male who was living next door to Smith and who was an illegal immi__GRANT – although this would not officially be established until the day the case was brought to court.
It was at this point that Kandies’ slow and often frustrating foray into the legal system began, she said.
First, Reyes was arrested for simple assault; the initial incident report would indicate that the responding deputy saw no visible signs of injury.
This shocked Kandies, she said, because she was visibly bruised and took pictures to prove it. She had two black eyes from her attacker head-butting her violently. Her arms and legs were also bruised. Her lip, which she said that Reyes had bitten in the course of the assault, was severely swollen and was bleeding.
For some reason, Kandies said, dispatch had not sent an ambulance; they would later explain that when the dispatcher asked Kandies if she needed an ambulance, she said, “No, Wes is here.”
Kandies said she doesn’t remember what she said to the dispatcher but she was surprised that they had not sent an ambulance.
“They need to send an ambulance in cases like that every time just like they do for auto accidents,” she said.
Kandies went to a local emergency clinic; she was treated for her bruises, given a tetanus shot, and placed on a 14-day antibiotic series.
Kandies noted that during the bond hearing the next morning, the judge, upon seeing the extent of her injuries, directed the Sheriff’s Office to __drop the simple assault charge and file felony charges. The BCSO did this, charging Reyes with Assault and Battery with Intent to Commit Criminal Sexual Conduct, according to BCSO officials. A judge set bond at $40,000, which Reyes could not pay. He would remain in Hill-Finklea Detention Center for the next seven and a half months.
Meanwhile, Kandies had questions. She worried that Reyes might have exposed her to communicable diseases when he bit her, yet he was not tested for any such conditions until November. In the meantime, she had to pay medical expenses out of pocket.
Ninth Circuit First Assistant Solicitor Bryan Alfaro said generally, the solicitor’s office will file a motion for such a blood test at the request of the victim; it is up to a judge to decide whether to order the tests or deny the motion.
The assistant solicitor initially assigned to the case is no longer with the solicitor’s office; Alfaro re-assigned the case to Assistant Solicitor Ann Williams in September.
Williams filed that motion, which was __GRANTed, in November, Kandies said.
Most important, Kandies said she is deeply concerned and outraged that someone illegally residing in the U.S. enjoys the same legal rights as a citizen. Reyes had a court-appointed lawyer; Kandies had to pay for medical treatment and counseling up front although she eventually was registered in the S.C. Victim’s Advocate system and should receive some restitution, she said.
“It stays on my mind a lot,” Kandies said. “If he’s illegal, I don’t believe he should be covered under our rights. And they should have tested him immediately for my protection.”
Ivan Ortiz-Delgado of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said that generally, assuming a suspect in the country illegally is convicted of a violent felony, that person would first serve the sentence the court mandates, then Immigration and Customs Enforcement places a hold on the person, takes custody on the person’s release date, and removes that person from the U.S.
On Dec. 1, Reyes pleaded guilty to Assault with intent to commit Criminal Sexual Conduct in the Third Degree. Judge Kristi Harrington sentenced him to five years in state prison; he will also have to register for life as a sex offender and, according to state laws regarding violent sexual offenders, could be held in prison even after his time is served. Once he serves his sentence here, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will take custody of Reyes and deport him to his native country.
Kandies addressed the court that day as well, saying she disagreed with the plea-bargaining and requesting that Reyes serve the maximum sentence possible.
“This has profoundly affected and changed my life, “ she said. “I don’t want him to be able to do this to anyone else. I felt safe until this happened. I don’t know what would have happened if I had not taken Ju-Jitsu.”
One point Kandies wants to make clear – especially to women everywhere -_- is that she firmly believes she is alive and largely unhurt thanks to self-defense training she learned many years ago.
To that end, she wants to encourage all women to learn self-defense. She said she hopes that if other women read or hear her story, they, too will come forward, voice their concerns, tell their stories – and learn to protect themselves.
“I thought I was safe, right here,” she noted. “I wasn’t. If I hadn’t known what to do, I think he probably would have killed me. We don’t know why things happen, but I’m glad it didn’t happen to someone who didn’t know what to do.”
“He just picked the wrong one,” she added. “At least I have that consolation.”
He did at that, noted Kandies’ former Ju Jitsu sensei, Darrell Sanders, who was the hand to hand combat/self defense instructor for the Charleston County Sheriff’ Office for many years before taking the job as chief of the Frankfort, Illinois Police Department. He retired from law enforcement several years ago and is now head of security at a hospital in Illinois.
Sanders noted that Kandies was a long-term student, so the techniques she learned and practiced stayed with her. He also said she was an especially strong-willed person with a fighting spirit.
“I am very proud of her,” he said. “I’m glad she was able to fall back on her training and I’m very glad what we taught her helped save her from such a dangerous situation.”
Kandies said she also wants to continue to speak out about illegal immigration issues. She, like many in the community, says she is outraged by illegal immigration and sees the situation as a source of many unnecessary burdens to society. In fact, she recently spoke at a forum in North Charleston on illegal immigration issues hosted by members of the state legislative delegation. She said she felt the forum was a positive step and the delegation received her message – and the messages of other concerned citizens – loud and clear.