BANGOR, Maine — Friends of a Maine woman and her friend who police say were victims of a random attack at a hotel last month while they were visiting California are raising money to help the women cover their medical expenses.
Crystal Wiley, 27, a Bangor and Glenburn native who now works as a nurse living in Naples, was at Disneyland in Anaheim in mid-January with her friend Katherine Newman a mother of two from Brampton, Ontario.
The women met as competitors at a Boston beauty pageant in 2012 and became fast friends, Wiley said.
Less than two years later, Wiley is crediting Newman with saving her life — or at very least from a lifetime of trauma.
Newman and Wiley were at Disneyland to participate in the Disney Tinker Bell Half Marathon on Jan. 19. Newman has a 16-year-old son who is autistic, and was running as part of a team, Autism Speaks, that had raised more than $2,000 for the race, according to Wiley.
On Jan. 16, the pair were returning from a day of fun in the theme park to their hotel in Anaheim. As they unlocked the door around 7:30 p.m., a man who had been pretending to unlock the door of a neighboring room forced his way inside with them and pulled out a knife.
“This guy tried to shove me and Katherine into the hotel room,” Wiley said Thursday in a phone interview. “I was too stunned to really do anything.”
Newman started throwing punches, shouting and trying to scare the intruder off. During the struggle, Newman was hit in the head, possibly with the knife because she suffered a cut on her head.
The man grabbed Wiley and tried to drag her out of the room. When Newman tried to stop him, he cut her arms several times with the blade, according to Wiley. The fight Newman put up and the screaming and shouting from the room attracted the attention of nearby hotel guests, who called police. The man eventually was scared off and fled the scene.
“She definitely saved my life and saved me from a lot of trauma,” Wiley said of her friend.
Police believe they have the man responsible for the attack in custody. Two days after the attack, police arrested 32-year-old Ulises DeLaTorre after reviewing surveillance tapes. They also believe he attacked three other women in the area during a five-hour crime spree that night.
Wiley and Newman were treated at a hospital for their wounds. Wiley suffered a cut to her eyebrow, while Newman suffered more severe cuts to her head and arms.
A police detective notified Disneyland of the attack and, even though it occurred off Disney property, Disney officials put the women up in a Disney resort for the rest of their stay in California, gave them stuffed Tinker Bell dolls and a pair of race medals from the race they didn’t get the chance to run in because of the attack.
Wiley said she has about $4,000 in medical debt because of her high-deductible plan. Newman’s bills have added up to about $28,000, and she isn’t yet sure how much her national health insurance will cover.
Beauty pageant friends of the women also are pitching in. A benefit photo contest titled “Sister Queens Unite Against Violence” is being planned to raise money to cover medical bills as well.
“I feel blessed to know the people that I do,” Wiley said.