Saturday, August 12, 2000

Beating victim meets 'angel'

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FORT THOMAS — Jerri Payne didn't know whether to laugh or cry Friday, so she did a little of each when she met the young woman who, she says, saved her life when she was severely beaten two weeks ago.

[photo] Jerri Payne, right, meets her "angel," Courtney Lehman, Friday.
(Jeff Swinger photo)
| ZOOM |
        “My family loves you, and I love you,” Ms. Payne said as she hugged 19-year-old Courtney Lehman in the Paynes' front yard. “You're my angel. You're the reason I'm alive.”

        Ms. Payne told police she was repeatedly beaten and that her clothes were ripped off by a man she met at a local bar. She accepted his offer of a ride in a new Mustang July 31.

        Ricky Leap, 33, of Alexandria, has been charged with assault in the incident. He is being held in the Campbell County jail awaiting a possible grand jury indictment.

        Ms. Lehman, of Cold Spring, explained that she and two girlfriends were in her car near the end of Lower Tug Fork Road near Four Mile Road northeast of Alexandria when she saw a car stopped and a woman sitting in the roadway.

        “She was naked, with her knees pulled up to her chest,” Ms. Lehman said. “If I'd been going any faster I might have hit her.”

        “You were all bloody ... it was terrible,” she said to Ms. Payne as the two continued their hug.

        She said she saw a man sitting on the passenger side of the car, and when she slowed, “He honked his horn and tried to get me to stop. There was no way I was going to stop. It was about 11:30 at night and we had no idea what was going on. I drove by.”

        She also immediately dialed 911 on her cell phone.

        “I looked in the rearview mirror and saw him take off in his car,” Ms. Lehman said. “The police were there within just a few minutes.”

        Ms. Payne sustained injuries and bruising to her face, head, arms and legs in the attack, which she said took place in Mr. Leap's auto and at his home.

        Ms. Payne was scheduled to undergo emergency eye surgery this morning to restructure her fractured eye socket.

        She visited an eye doctor Friday and is now scheduled to see a specialist for persistent double vision, which has prevented her from returning to work.


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