If you ask Cynthia Robbins, she would tell you she and her sister were either 15 minutes ahead or behind schedule Monday when they turned onto a street in the Rosewood neighborhood to deliver copies of The State newspaper. But on that day, they were right on time to thwart a kidnapping.
“God only knows what would have happened to her if we didn’t get there then,” Robbins said.
As the sisters turned onto the street near Rosewood Park at 4:57 a.m., they saw a woman sitting in her car with a man ducked down behind the car. They had seen the woman on their route before, Robbins said, but the man was unfamiliar. They drove past the car, and it became clear that something wasn’t right.
“I’ll never forget the sheer look of terror on her face,” Robbins said. “I knew something was wrong.”
They stopped just past the house and called 911, Robbins said. About that time, the woman started honking her car horn and yelling for help. Then the man who was by the car ran away. Police were on the scene in another five minutes.
Robbins and Kandi Torres may have stopped a kidnapping, but the woman in the car already had lived through several minutes of terror before that. Earlier that morning, the woman told police, she awoke to find a strange man standing in her bedroom, according to Columbia Police Department spokeswoman Jennifer Timmons. The man ordered the woman to the floor and sexually assaulted her.
After the assault, the man started asking about valuables in her home. The woman offered him money, and the man then forced the woman to her car so she could drive him to an ATM to withdraw money from her account, Timmons said. That’s when Robbins and Torres drove onto the scene.
After police arrived on scene, they fruitlessly searched Rosewood for the suspect Monday morning. Tuesday, they arrested Andrew Tyrone Dervin, 47, at a Walmart on Bush River Road. The suspect is charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct, burglary and kidnapping, Timmons said.
The sisters had been delivering papers just over six months when they stopped Monday’s kidnapping, and Robbins said the incident will make them even more alert to what happens on their route. They’re just grateful they weren’t 15 minutes earlier or later, she said.
“God always puts you in the place you need to be,” Robbins said.