Abigail Hernandez, 14, was stolen while going home from school and imprisoned in a windowless storage container roughly 30 miles from her home in New Hampshire.
Abby Hernandez, a freshman at Kennett High School in North Conway, New Hampshire, was a bright student and outstanding athlete. She was only a few days shy of turning 15 when she vanished on Oct. 9, 2013 — and would be held hostage in a storage container for nine months before she could escape.
The hunt for Abby Hernandez was one of the most extensive in New Hampshire history. As conjecture and wild stories invaded the once-peaceful village, her likeness emerged on missing people posters posted on every block. Several seasons passed until she mysteriously appeared on her doorstep in July 2014.
Hernandez had been held hostage about 30 miles outside of town, much to her mother’s surprise and detectives’ wonder. The adolescent had been sexually abused by her captor, Nathaniel Kibby. Still, she also dumped him into friendship in the hopes that their link would one day help her escape — a maneuver depicted in Lifetime’s Girl in the Shed: The Kidnapping of Abby Hernandez, starring Ben Savage as Kibby.
“If I were to develop a textbook on how victims should deal with abductions… the first chapter would be about Abby,” retired FBI profiler Brad Garrett stated. “It’s always about getting close to the evil person.”
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Abigail Hernandez was born on October 12, 1998, in Manchester, New Hampshire, and had a normal childhood until October 2013. Adults who knew her remarked on her physical abilities as a teen, and her Kennett High School classmates remembered her as kind, cheerful, and joyous.
That temperament would be ruthlessly taken away from her shortly after she entered the ninth school. Hernandez walked home from her new school and vanished after graduating from middle school and enjoying the summer of 2013.
Hernandez, who lived with her mother Zenya and sister Sarah, never arrived home later than planned. Her mother filed a missing person’s report when she failed to return home by 7 p.m. on Oct. 9, 2013. Her family and police feared the worst because she had no domestic difficulties at home and no motive to go.
Hernandez had already been kidnapped, so their instincts were correct. Nathaniel Kibby, her captor, mainly had spent his days as a petty crook who printed counterfeit money in his trailer. He’d suddenly transformed into a kidnapper. And with Abby in his clutches, he’d soon do much worse.
Nathaniel Kibby held Abby Hernandez at gunpoint in his truck on October 9, 2013, and threatened to slash her neck if she didn’t cooperate. He shackled her and placed a jacket around her head, smashing her smartphone to prevent the cops from tracing its GPS location. Hernandez managed to peep out the window, but when Kibby caught her, he tased her.
Kibby’s residence in Gorham, New Hampshire, was 30 miles away when the automobile came to a rest. He led Hernandez inside a dimly lit area with a “Don’t Tread On Me” sign on the wall. He taped her eyelids shut, covered her head in a t-shirt, and strapped on a motorcycle helmet. Then, for the first time, he raped her.
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘Okay, I’m going to have to work with this man,'” Hernandez remembered. “‘I don’t judge you for this,’ I responded. If you let me go, I promise not to tell anyone…’ ‘Look, you don’t seem like a horrible guy,’ I assured him. Everyone makes errors, after all… If you let me go, I promise not to tell anyone.”
Her attempts to soften Kibby were first futile. He placed her inside a storage container in his backyard, where she was subjected to regular violence and sexual assault. She remembered removing “amen” from her prayers because she “didn’t want God to abandon me.”
“I simply wanted to live,” she explained. Kibby ultimately let Abby Hernandez into his trailer to assist him in the printing of his counterfeit money. However, the tide was not changing as he quickly insisted that she call him “Master” and presented her with a new torture weapon.
“‘You know, I’m thinking of doing something a bit more humanitarian for you to keep you quiet,’ he replied.” ‘I’m considering a shock collar,’ he remarked. I recall him putting it on me. ‘All right, try to scream,’ he said. And — I gradually began to raise my voice. “And then it hit me,” Hernandez said.
“So he’s like, ‘Okay, now you know what it’s like,'” she says.
However, he bonded with Abby Hernandez throughout her nine-month relationship with Nathaniel Kibby. And ultimately, he gave Abby Hernandez a cookbook as reading material. Hernandez didn’t know the name of her kidnapper at the time, but it was written on the inside cover.
“‘Who is Nate Kibby?” I asked. Hernandez remembered. “And he just kind of sighed and asked, ‘How do you know my name?'”
Nate Kibby received an urgent phone call in July 2014 from Lauren Munday, a lady he met on the internet. Munday told him she’d been caught for handing false $50 notes and had claimed cops Kibby had printed them.
Kibby was terrified and quickly began selling everything in his house, including Abby Hernandez. On July 20, 2014, he drove the 15-year-old back to North Conway and left her off just feet away from where she had been abducted, promising her not to give him up. Hernandez went the final mile back to her mother’s house.
“I remember looking up and smiling and just being so joyful,” Hernandez recalled. “Oh my goodness, this occurred. I’m a free man. I never imagined it would happen to me, but now I’m free.”
Hernandez told authorities that her kidnapper’s identity was unknown. According to court documents released in November 2014, she only gave authorities a drawing of her abductor and hid his identity from everyone save her mother, Zenya.
“She had confided in her, informing her that she had not provided law police with all of the essential information and that she also knew who her kidnapper was,” Hernandez said. On July 27, 2014, Zenya Hernandez provided detectives with Kibby’s identity, resulting in his arrest and a search of his property.
Kibby was first charged with kidnapping and imprisoned on a $1 million bail before pleading guilty to six other offenses, including second-degree assault and sexual assault.
While he was sentenced to 45 to 90 years in prison, Hernandez says she now takes the time to enjoy everything life has to offer. “Every time I walk outdoors now, I try to embrace the sunlight and fresh air,” Hernandez added. “It got in my lungs differently. “I try not to take that for granted.”