Slain Connie remembered 40 years on
An American woman raped in Bermuda 40 years ago has penned a letter to a schoolgirl sexually assaulted and killed only weeks after her own ordeal.
Keri Ebright wrote a Letter to the Editor to mark the anniversary of the death of 11-year-old Connie Furtado, who was raped and strangled with her school tie in 1978 in a crime that shocked Bermuda.
Ms Ebright, who completed the Bermuda Marathon Weekend Triangle Challenge of mile, 10K and marathon last month in memory of Connie, wrote: “Dear Connie, I didn't know you personally, but I wish I could have protected you. I was shocked, sick and saddened when I heard what happened to you — at the unfairness and randomness.
“Why was I spared and you were not? I buried my pain and moved away.”
Ms Ebright added she also wanted to send a message of support to victims of sex abuse and rape, and to encourage them to speak out without shame.
Ms Ebright, who lives in North Carolina, was aged 17 when she was raped on the Railway Trail in Hamilton Parish between Flatts and Shelly Bay on New Year's Day, 1978.
She reported the crime to police but her attacker was never traced.
Connie, who was a pupil at Paget Primary, died on February 22, 1978.
Her body was found on wasteland near the Railway Trail on Ord Road, Paget, a few hundred yards from her home.
Chesterfield Johnson was later convicted of murder and rape and sentenced to death, but his murder conviction was reduced on appeal to manslaughter.
He was given the maximum sentence at the time of 20 years and released in 1998.
Ms Ebright, who lived in Bermuda between 1974 and 1980, told The Royal Gazette she met two Bermudian women in the United States while working for a counselling service for the families of military veterans lost to suicide.
She said: “It brought Bermuda back on to my radar.
“It got me thinking that maybe if I came back I could run in memory of Connie — I wanted to do that for Connie and for my own healing.
“I printed her picture and I ran the races for the Bermuda Triangle Challenge in January.”
Ms Ebright added: “It has been a long time but people can still be affected by trauma.
“The marathon was difficult. I wondered if I would run into my attacker, but I was able to finish it. My friend Lisa was with me. She was the one whose house I was walking to the day I was raped.”
Ms Ebright also visited child abuse charity Scars and the Centre Against Abuse while in Bermuda, with an idea to help other victims of sex attacks.
She said: “I would like to share my story to help other people. If I can come back in May and do the End-To-End and join with other victims — I don't like to say victims because we are kind of ‘overcomers' because we survived — we could get together a team of people who have been through this trauma.
“We can walk together, join and walk for our own feelings and be there to encourage each other and support each other. That would be one of my goals.”
Ms Ebright told other victims traumatised by sex attacks not to bottle up their pain.
She said: “Don't keep it buried inside you. Reach out to a trusted friend or a professional.
“When it happened to me, everybody told me not to tell anybody because of the shame. Don't let shame enter your mind; there is no shame. They did it to you — it is not your fault.”
Ms Ebright added: “My help was reaching out to the Lord and taking a Bible verse when I get really scared and just reading it. That has been a help to me.
“Connecting with others who have been through something similar is always a help, someone who can validate your pain because they understand it,
“They can't take it away, but they can share it with you.”