A graphic designer and longtime gymnastics coach, 44-year-old Marti Hill was enjoying her life working at a sports apparel company and spending time with her family.
But on Sept. 8, 2010, her life nearly ended. Hill was savagely attacked by a workman in her Prairie Village home.
Despite being stabbed, choked and beaten, Hill survived the attack. Now, for the first time, she is telling her story to a large group.
Hill will speak about her experience at 11 a.m. Feb. 11 in the Polsky Theatre at Johnson County Community College. Several hundred people are expected to attend the free presentation, which is open to the public.
Dan Robles, JCCC’s crime prevention officer, said Hill will available to meet with attendees after the presentation. Additionally, counselors will be available to talk with people who have been victims of violence or trauma.
“After reading story in a local magazine I contacted Marti and asked her if she would be willing to share her story in a presentation at the college,” he said. “I have invited groups such as MOCSA and Safehome to attend.”
As part of her recovery, Hill said she began telling her story to small groups. She also shared her story with CBS 48 Hours, which featured her experience in an episode titled “The Stranger You Know.”
“When you’ve been through a trauma, it’s very important to share what has happened to you,” she said. “That has helped me and I hope my story can help others.”
Hill also created a website, www.martihill.com, designed to help people who have undergone a trauma. The website features “Seven Safety Strategies for Living Smart” and a link to the 48 Hours episode.
Among her strategies are avoiding potentially dangerous situations and practicing situational awareness, or being aware of your surroundings, she said. “Being aware of your situation and the people around you is important,” she said. “I see so many women putting themselves in potentially dangerous situations and not even realizing it.”
And although she thinks self-defense courses can be helpful, “I don’t want to encourage women to think they will be able to fight someone off,” she said.
Hill said the day the attack happened she was preparing to go to work. Brian Pennington, a 27-year-old contractor who had worked at her home the previous month, knocked at her door.
“I was surprised,” she said. “He hadn’t call to say he was coming. But I was focused on getting ready and leaving for work, so I let him in.”
Pennington said he wanted to show her some problems in her basement, so the two went downstairs. She said she remembers him grabbing her from behind and beginning to choke her.
She fought back but eventually lost consciousness. She woke up in the hospital days later, so swollen and beaten she was unrecognizable, even to her own family. It was several days before the medical staff thought she would live.
She learned that when she didn’t show up for work that day her co-workers alerted the Prairie Village police, who found her on the floor of her basement, near death and lying in a pool of blood.
Hill underwent months of rehabilitation and had problems with balance, walking, sight and hearing. She was unable to return to work full-time for a year. She still has problems with balance and numbness as a result of the attack.
Pennington was arrested shortly after the attack and is serving 28 years in prison. He did not rape or rob Hill and has never provided a motive for the attack, she said.
“He was a nice, normal guy who seemed so together,” she said. “Part of what I’m doing now is learning about people. People can act or seem nice but actually be entirely different.”
She said she has avoided becoming angry or afraid thanks to ongoing counseling and the support of family and friends. In addition to talking to groups, Hill is active with Camp Victory, a nonprofit organization that helps young survivors of sexual abuse.
As far as continuing to tell her story on a larger stage, Hill said, “I just plan to go where it leads me.”