Knocked Out

Like a corpse in a horror movie, Amy Shackelford shot straight up in bed, going from comatose to wide awake in seconds. In those moments she realized she was naked. She leaped off the mattress, clutching the bedcovers around her body.

Looking around, she saw that she was standing in a dark hotel room. The clock on the nightstand said 4 a.m.

A man was sleeping on the other side of the bed.

Jake Gardiner. The only man in the world Amy hated. The only man she knew who hated her.

"Oh, my God," Shackelford thought. She dropped to her knees and began groping for her clothes: bra, panties, the new dress she'd worn to her friends' wedding.

As she struggled into her clothes, she made her way to the bathroom. Her throat was so dry she could barely breathe. Shackelford stuck her head under the faucet and gulped and gulped, unable to take in enough water to satisfy her thirst. Suddenly aware of her body, she realized she'd had sex that night.

"I can't believe it," she thought, crumpling to the floor. "I cheated on Cory."

She couldn't comprehend what had happened. At 23, a recent graduate of Texas Christian University, Amy's life followed certain principles, placing a high premium on chastity and fidelity. For 18 months, Shackelford had been dating Cory Curry, a senior at TCU, but they had agreed to wait until marriage for sex. She'd dated her previous boyfriend for two years without having sex. And friends knew all about Shackelford's soapbox issue: unfaithful lovers and spouses. She hated cheaters.

Shackelford returned to the bedroom crying and punched the sleeping Gardiner in the chest.

"What happened?" she demanded, holding onto the wall for support.

Gardiner sat up in bed. A fellow TCU grad living in San Diego and working for a medical devices firm, Jake Gardiner--which isn't his real name--had run into Shackelford at a fraternity brother's wedding reception the night before, on July 14, 2001.

"Do you want me to get up?" Gardiner said nonchalantly. "Hey, you told me you were single."

"I'm not single," Shackelford screamed, verging on hysteria. "I'm in love and I want to marry him. I don't know what I'm going to do."

She was furious when Gardiner chuckled and rolled his eyes.

Still crying, Shackelford grabbed her purse and headed for the door. "Why don't you give me a call when you know what you're going to tell Cory?" Gardiner said casually.

When Shackelford emerged from the elevator into the lobby of the Adolphus Hotel, a female employee, taking in the mascara running down her face, asked, "Are you all right? Can I help you?"

Shackelford asked her to call a cab, then changed her mind when she got her sister Sara on the phone. "Come pick me up at my building," she said, still sobbing. She left the hotel and began walking the four or five blocks to Renaissance Tower, where she worked in Blockbuster Video's advertising department.

Sara Shackelford, a freshman at SMU, had never heard her big sister sound so distraught. Amy was so relentlessly upbeat, so determined to see the good in everyone, that Sara called her "Pollyanna." Amy was cute with a capital C: black hair, blue eyes, dark fringe of eyelashes and perky attitude. In fact, at Plano Senior High, Amy had been the "Wildcat" school mascot. At TCU, she'd performed on the football field in a horned toad costume as "SuperFrog," the personification of school spirit.

Racing downtown, Sara called Amy back, begging her to go back to the hotel, to find some place safe.

"I don't care if I get hit by an 18-wheeler," Amy said. When Sara pulled up to her building, Amy jumped in the car and blurted out, "I cheated on Cory."

Knowing how much Amy hated infidelity, Sara couldn't believe what she was hearing. "What do you remember?" Sara asked.

"I don't remember anything," Amy said, still sobbing.

Sara assumed that Amy had had too much to drink and passed out, but her sister didn't seem to be drunk now--she wasn't slurring her words or stumbling. Amy didn't have a reputation as a heavy drinker anyway.

The sisters drove to Amy's apartment and tried to get some sleep, Amy rising occasionally to throw up. Later that morning, Sara pressed Amy: How much did she drink? Amy counted four drinks over two-and-a-half hours. She realized her last complete memory was Jake Gardiner knocking a drink from her hand at the wedding reception at the Adolphus, then insisting on bringing her another.

Five minutes later, they were on their way to Medical City Dallas Hospital, Sara on her phone to their mother. The sisters had already made some connections. "Mom, I don't want you to panic," Sara said, "but Amy's been drugged and raped."

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Glenna Whitley