Innocence Lost is a scary true story about a 13-year old girl who falls victim to an online predator. The girl’s name is Alicia Kozakiewicz and the story is told in her own words.
It was 2002 and I was 13 years old. I had dark blond hair, blue-green eyes and braces. I lived with my mom, dad and older brother in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
I was an average girl from an average middle class family. I was shy and wrote poetry. I was rarely in trouble.
Sometimes I would go outside with my friends to play in the park. Sometimes I would stay at home and play on the computer. I was on the computer a lot. Not just an hour a day, but hours a day.
I had a profile on Yahoo! where I posted pictures of myself. My screen name was “goddessofall” and my profile listed my interests as “witchcraft, hypnosis and mythology”. It said I wanted to be an astronaut and a model… which is a really weird combination.
All I remember is starting to chat online with this person. I assumed it was a boy my age because he was interested in the same things I was… The Spice Girls and Titanic.
We chatted online for about 8 months. He always listened to me and said what I wanted to hear: “Your teacher is stupid,” or, “Why should you tidy your room when that’s your mom’s job?”
On New Year’s Day, I arranged to meet him in person for the first time. After dinner, I told my mom I was going to my room for a few minutes. I told her I would come back down for dessert. We were having apple-walnut pie. Instead, I sneaked out to finally meet my online friend in person.
I walked up maybe a block or so and I stood there for a moment. Suddenly that little voice in my head spoke up. It said: “Alicia, what are you doing? This is really stupid! You need to turn around and go back home!”
The moment I went to turn around, I heard my name being called. There was no boy there, it was a man.
The next thing I knew, I was in a car and this huge monster was squeezing my hand so tightly, I thought it was broken. He was barking commands at me: “Be good! Be quiet! The trunk’s cleaned out for you.”
I had no idea where he was taking me or what he planned to do with me.
It wasn’t until we came to the toll booths that I realized he was taking me out of state. All I could think was: “I’m so far away from home. How are my parents going to find me?”
After a 5-hour journey, he took me to his home where he pulled me down a flight of steps and kept me captive in his basement dungeon. It was full of strange torture devices, including a cage.
He kept me naked with a dog collar around my neck which was chained to a bolt in the floor. The chain was just long enough to allow me to go to the toilet.
“It’s OK to cry,” he said coldly. “This is going to be hard for you.”
The man who abducted me then starved me, beat me, tortured me and abused me. He even broadcast the abuse to his friends online. I did whatever I had to do to survive. No matter how painful, humiliating or disgusting, I did it because I wanted to live.
On the morning of the fourth day, he looked at me and said, “I’m beginning to like you too much… Tonight we’re going to go for a ride…”
“This is it,” I thought. I knew he was going to kill me. I accepted the fact that I wasn’t going to make it out of there alive.
He went off to work, leaving me alone in the basement. Lying on the floor, naked and weeping, I felt pure despair. How could I escape? I was just 13 years old.
Not long afterwards, I heard banging on the door. I heard voices screaming, “We have guns! We have guns!”
I figured he had sent people to hurt me or kill me, so I rolled underneath the bed, trying to hide. I was absolutely terrified. Just then, a man stepped around the corner and on the back of his jacket, I saw the three most beautiful letters in the alphabet…
F… B… I…
I knew then that I was safe.
Later, they told me how they had found me. On the third day of my captivity, an anonymous caller had contacted the FBI and told them he had seen a video online of me being tortured. In the video I was chained to the wall and crying. He told them he knew the kidnapper’s first name was Scott and his screen name was “master4teen_slavegirls”.
The FBI managed to trace the screen name to a Yahoo! profile. The IP address associated with the account led them to a man named Scott Tyree. He was 38 years old and was a computer programmer from Virginia.
He also had a 12-year old daughter. She had stayed at his house during the Christmas holidays. She had only gone home to her mother’s house on New Year’s Day… The same day I was abducted.
He was arrested, convicted and sentanced to 19 years in prison.
After 4 days of unspeakable torture, I was reunited with my parents. I thought I’d done something wrong, that they didn’t love me anymore, but they welcomed me home with open arms. My mom said it was like I had come back from the dead. My dad couldn’t stop hugging me and said he was just glad I was alive. But I was never the same again.
I suffered from terrible flashbacks and nightmares. It was really, really difficult.
For the longest time, whenever we came to a toll booth, I would have to close my eyes and put my hands over my ears and pretend I was somewhere else.