Bad things happen to good people every day for no reason other than that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In January 2000, 2 college students on winter break met up for the first time after chatting on the internet for the past 4 months. After their first date, the pair planned to spend their second date outside walking along a local river. Sadly, however, the picturesque date turned into a nightmare that neither of them will ever forget…
In January 2000, 18-year-old Dan Zapp traveled to York County, Pennsylvania to spend his winter vacation from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh with 18-year-old Danielle Keener, who he had been talking to on the internet for the past 4 months.
The Second Date
On January 8, 2000, the 2 college students met up for the 2nd date, which they spent talking and getting to know each other better as they walked along the Susquehanna River. Sadly, however, the date wouldn’t have a fairytale ending…
A Friendly Stranger
While the pair of 18-year-olds walked along the river on the winter day, a man driving a red pickup truck pulled up on the side of the road next to them and started talking to the couple. At first, Dan and Danielle thought the man was just being friendly.
However, as they spoke with the stranger, Dan and Danielle started to get worried when the man started slurring his words and asked them the same questions over and over. The pair knew something was off about the stranger and attempted to walk away…
No Way To Escape
Dan and Danielle tried to walk away from the man, but the man blocked their path with his truck. He then got out, pulled out his 9 mm pistol, and pointed it at the pair, who froze in fear. As the man pointed his gun at their heads, he ordered the couple to get into the truck.
Drive From Hell
The man forced Dan to get in the back of the truck where he had a large Rottweiler waiting to make sure he didn’t try to escape. After closing him in the back, he forced Danielle to climb into the front seat with him and then started driving his truck…
The man drove several miles following the river and finally stopped when he reached a dirt road called Gut Road. There was no one around to stop the man and save them as he parked his truck and started raping Danielle several times.
When he was finished sexually assaulting the 18-year-old, the man made Dan and Danielle climb out of his truck and guided them to the edge of the river while holding his pistol up to them. Once they were at the river, he started shooting the couple at point blank range…
Dan and Danielle’s kidnapper shot them both in the face and then kept shooting until he ran out of bullets. The man then kicked both of the bodies into the river and watched as they both got carried away by the current. Thinking the teenagers were dead, the man then walked off toward his truck and drove off.
Both Dan and Danielle should have been dead after both being shot in the face, but they were both miraculously alive. The freezing waters helped slow their hearts, which slowed the blood in their veins and kept them from bleeding out from the gunshot wounds…
An Angel In The Water
The pair drifted down the river a couple hundred yards before they crossed paths with a local duck hunter, Pete Powell, and 2 other men who pulled both Dan and Danielle out of the water. The men called 911 and the 18-year-olds were rushed to York County Hospital.
Saved By The Water
“The fact that it occurred near the water… It provided them with an avenue of escape that they otherwise wouldn’t have had,” said Ed Paskey, former York County First Deputy District Attorney. “It could’ve killed them, but at the end of the day, it probably saved their lives…”
Once at the hospital, a team of doctors started treating Danielle. The team had to see what kind of damage she sustained from the gunshots, so once she was stable, they took an MRI and found that her tongue had been badly cut and a part of her jaw had been blown to pieces. To keep her stable as they treated the injuries, doctors had no choice but to put her into an induced coma.
Meanwhile, another team of doctors and nurses were working to treat Dan. The team discovered a bullet had torn through his windpipe, and were afraid bone fragments could cut an artery and potentially cause blood clots and then a stroke…
A Written Statement
Even though Dan’s injuries were serious, he was stable enough for police to come in and question. Since he couldn’t speak because of the damage to his throat, he wrote police a detailed statement about what exactly happened to them earlier that day during what should have been a fun-filled second date.
All In The Details
In Dan’s statement, he told police in incredible detail about the truck, the Rottweiler named Sam that kept him from trying to escape and save Danielle, and even the kind of shoes that their kidnapper and attacker wore. Based of the description of the event, police suspected that they were looking for a man named William Babner…
48 Hours Later
Babner had prior records, and when the police showed Dan a photo of the suspect, he confirmed without a doubt that it was the man that attacked them. Police started a manhunt for Babner, and within 48 hours, police had found the 40-year-old and arrested him.
During the trial, Babner always claimed he was not guilty despite the copious amounts of evidence that police had proving his guilt. As if the prosecution didn’t have a strong enough case, they also had both Dan and Danielle testify about what happened to them. At the end of the trial in August 2000, the jury took just 1 hour to deliberate before finding Babner guilty on all counts…
Ultimately, Babner was sentenced to 117 to 235 years in prison in August 2000 for his crimes against 2 innocent college students. “Today was the first step for putting a monster on ice for a very long time,” said Ed Paskey, the first deputy district attorney who worked on the prosecution.
Bonded For Life
After getting justice, Dan and Danielle returned to school and moved on with their lives. They both ended up meeting other people, got married, and started families, but have remained bonded for life. “I want people to see it didn’t destroy us. We both have happy lives. It’s a part of us, but it’s not who we are,” Danielle said.