silouhette of woman in dark room
Chantel Brink
Chantel Brink
May 17, 2024 ·  7 min read

Escaping a Nightmare: The Kidnapping of Abby Hernandez

Trigger Warning: This story contains explicit details of child abuse and rape that some may find unsettling. Please read with caution.

Fourteen-year-old Abigail Hernandez was walking home from school when Nathaniel Kibby abducted her. He held her captive in a windowless storage container a mere 30 miles from her New Hampshire residence. Abby, a freshman at Kennett High in North Conway, was known for her academic prowess and athletic abilities. Just days shy of her fifteenth birthday, on October 9, 2013, she disappeared without a trace, enduring nine months in captivity before finally breaking free.

The hunt for Abby Hernandez marked one of the most extensive searches in New Hampshire’s archives

The hunt for Abby Hernandez marked one of the most extensive searches in New Hampshire's archives
Image Credit: Conway Police Department

Her image adorned countless missing person posters strewn across every street corner amidst a whirlwind of speculation and rampant rumors that swept through the once-tranquil town. Seasons passed before the miraculous moment arrived in July 2014 when she unexpectedly appeared on her own doorstep.

To the astonishment of her mother and law enforcement, Abby Hernandez had been held captive a mere 30 miles outside of town. Enduring repeated sexual assaults at the hands of her captor, Nathaniel Kibby, Abby also employed a clever strategy. She cultivated a pseudo-friendship with her captor in hopes of escaping one day. This gripping narrative was later depicted in Lifetime’s production “Girl in the Shed: The Kidnapping of Abby Hernandez,” with Ben Savage portraying Kibby.

Read More: Mum Goes On Taken-Style Mission And Hunts Down 10 Involved In Daughter’s Murder One-By-One

Former FBI profiler Brad Garrett weighed in on the story

Abigail Hernandez disappeared during her walk home from school on Oct. 9, 2013.
Image Credit: Handout

“If I were going to write a textbook about how victims should deal with abductions… the first chapter would be about Abby,” said former FBI profiler Brad Garrett. “It’s always about bonding to the bad guy.” This further emphasizes how shocking the events which played out truly were.

How does a 14-year-old girl simply vanish?

Manchester, New Hampshire, USA.
Credit: Shutterstock

Abigail Hernandez, born on October 12, 1998, in Manchester, New Hampshire, led a remarkably ordinary childhood until the events of October 2013 unfolded. Praised by adults for her athletic abilities and admired by peers at Kennett High School for her kindness, positivity, and joyful demeanor, Abby’s world drastically shifted upon entering the ninth grade.

Having just graduated from middle school and relishing the summer of 2013, Abby embarked on her usual route home from her new school. Then, on one fateful day, she vanished without a trace. Residing with her mother Zenya and sister Sarah, Abby was known for her punctuality and had never been late returning home. However, when she failed to arrive home on October 9, 2013, her mother promptly filed a missing person’s report. Absent any familial discord or motive to flee, both her family and law enforcement braced for the worst.

Nathaniel Kibby: Kidnapper and predator

Man in balaclava
Image Credit: Pexels

Nathaniel Kibby, previously known for his involvement in petty criminal activities such as printing counterfeit currency in his trailer, unexpectedly transitioned into the role of a kidnapper. With Abby held captive, his actions would soon escalate to even darker deeds.

On October 9, 2013, Nathaniel Kibby forced Abby Hernandez into his vehicle at gunpoint, threatening to slit her throat should she resist. He then handcuffed her and obscured her vision with a jacket while destroying her cell phone to thwart any GPS tracking attempts by law enforcement. Despite her attempts to observe her surroundings, Kibby swiftly subdued her with a taser when he caught her looking.

30 Miles later, the car came to a halt

"Don’t Tread On Me" flag
Source: Wikipedia

Upon completing the 30-mile journey, the car eventually halted at Kibby’s residence in Gorham, New Hampshire. Inside, he led Hernandez into a dimly lit room where a “Don’t Tread On Me” flag hung on the wall. He taped her eyes shut and bound her head in a t-shirt, thereafter, he put a motorbike helmet on her head, totally blocking out any light or sound. This is when the physical assault began.

“I remember thinking to myself, ‘Okay, I got to work with this guy,’” recalled Hernandez. “I said, ‘I don’t judge you for this. If you let me go, I won’t tell anybody about this…’ I told him, ‘Look, you don’t seem like a bad person. Like, everybody makes mistakes… If you let me go, I won’t tell anybody about this.’”

Read More: Woman saves two girls from alleged kidnapper after getting bad feeling

At first unsuccessful, she prayed and prayed

Girl praying
Image Credit: Pexels

Initially, Hernandez’s attempts to placate Kibby were futile. As a result, he forcefully confined her within a storage container situated in his yard. The assault continued daily. The trauma was so bad she recounts never saying ‘amen’ as she never wanted to end her prayers, hoping God would eventually answer her. “I just really wanted to live,” she said.

Trust and counterfeit money

20 Us Dollar Bills
Image Credit: Pexels

Eventually, Kibby permitted Abby Hernandez entry into his trailer, purportedly to assist him in his counterfeiting endeavors. Despite this concession, the situation took a darker turn when he demanded that she address him as “Master” and introduced her to a new instrument of torment.

He said, ‘You know, I’m thinking of finding something a little more humane for you to keep you quiet.’ He said, ‘I’m thinking of a shock collar.’ I remember he put it on me. And he told me, ‘Okay, try and scream.’ I just slowly started to raise my voice. And then it shocked me,” Hernandez recalled.
“So, he’s like, ‘Okay, now you know what it feels like.’”

An escape plan in process, documented

The red cargo container where Abby Hernandez was held by Nathaniel Kibby.
Image Credit: Zachary T. Sampson for The Boston Globe via Getty Images

During Abby Hernandez’s nine-month ordeal with Nathaniel Kibby, an unexpected bond started to develop between them. Eventually, Kibby even offered Hernandez some reading material in the form of a cookbook. At this juncture, Hernandez remained unaware of her abductor’s identity, but a name was inscribed on the inside cover. “I said, ‘Who’s Nate Kibby?’” Abby Hernandez recalled. “And he just kind of breathed and said ‘How do you know my name?’”

In July 2014, Nate Kibby received a disturbing call from Lauren Munday, a woman he had encountered online. Munday revealed that she had been apprehended for passing counterfeit $50 bills and had informed the authorities that Kibby was involved in their production.

Fearing repercussions, Kibby hastily began liquidating his possessions, including Abby Hernandez

In an exclusive interview with ABC News' "20/20," Abigail Hernandez spoke about her kidnapping and what her captor forced her to endure.
Image Credit: ABC News

On July 20, 2014, he transported the 15-year-old back to North Conway and left her mere steps from where she had been abducted, extracting a promise from her not to incriminate him. Abby Hernandez then walked the final mile to her mother’s residence. “I remember looking up and laughing, just being so happy,” said Hernandez. “Oh my God, this actually happened. I’m a free person. I never thought it would happen to me, but I’m free.”

Abby Hernandez informed the police that the identity of her captor remained unknown to her. Court documents released in November 2014 revealed that she had shared only a sketch of her abductor with law enforcement and had kept his name concealed from everyone except her mother, Zenya. Zenya Hernandez, Abby’s mother, disclosed to detectives on July 27, 2014, that Abby had confided in her. Admitting that she had not provided all pertinent information to law enforcement and that she knew the identity of her captor.

This revelation led to Nathaniel Kibby’s arrest and the subsequent search of his property

Nathaniel Kibby was sentenced to 45 to 90 years in prison.
Image Credit: New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office

Initially facing charges of kidnapping and detained on a $1 million bond, Kibby spent two years incarcerated before ultimately pleading guilty to six additional felony charges. These included second-degree assault and sexual assault. Nate received a sentence of 45 to 90 years.

Abby Hernandez says she now takes time to appreciate all life offers. “Every time I go outside now, I really try to appreciate sunlight and fresh air,” said Hernandez. “It really went in my lungs differently. I really try to never take that for granted. Just don’t lose hope… even when you feel like you’ve lost everything, hope is something that nobody can take away from you. And just keep that. And it’ll keep you going,” she said.

Read More: Single mother faces prison for letting her 14-year-old babysit

Sources

  1. The Kidnapping Of Abby Hernandez And How She Escaped A NightmareRanker. Jodi Smith. April 18, 2023..
  2. Kidnapped While Walking Home from School and Held for 9 Months, Teen Recalls Wearing Shock Collar in CaptivityPeople. Adam Carlson. September 4, 2018.
  3. Kidnapping survivor Abby Hernandez reveals how she stayed alive in captivity and never lost hopeABC News. Mike Repplier. September 6, 2018.
  4. How Abby Hernandez Survived Nine Months Trapped Inside Her Kidnapper’s Homemade Prison — Then EscapedAll That’s Interesting. Marco Margaritoff . March 9, 2022