ST. LOUIS -- "I knew I was hurt. I felt my hair with my hand, and I could feel ripples in my head."
Ripples from where a baseball bat crushed her skull. Those words were apparently too much for Tonya Stainback's attacker to take. On the first day of the trial on Tuesday, defendant Freddie Ross stood up and confessed to the crime during the victim's testimony.
No one was prepared for that unexpected plea. Tonya endured more than 10 hours of torture last February, and she was ready to tell a jury and judge all about it. She had outsmarted her attacker and had lived to face him in trial. But as her clear memories of the night Ross nearly killed her came pouring out in court, he admitted he was guilty.
"I still have nightmares," Tonya said. "Sometimes I can't sleep."
Tonya sat down with me to tell her side of the story; to get closure on a horrific beating that nearly left her dead. A deep scar above her left eye is evidence of the crushing crack of a baseball bat to her face. Her boyfriend, Freddie Ross took the swing... and then another... and another.
"I woke up to a bat upside my head," Tonya said.
Ironically, Tonya had been in a deep sleep thanks to taking a pain killer and muscle relaxer that a doctor had prescribed the night before. She had gotten treatment at a hospital after she says Ross had hugged her in an embrace so hard that it bruised her ribs. Little did she know then that those pain pills would make such a difference.
"I felt no pain," Tonya said. "I was calm."
Tonya says Ross had no reason, no motive to hurt her. She says something in him just snapped. Bloodied and beaten, Tonya had been bound with duct tape and telephone wire -- a prisoner inside her own home, held hostage by her boyfriend.
"He was like 'well I'm just making sure that you don't get away. I've got to tie you up so that I can get away'," Tonya said. "He kept saying that he didn't want to go back to jail, that he couldn't die in a prison."
Tonya took the stand to tell a jury those very words on Tuesday, using a voice that was nearly silenced.
"He said 'I cut the gas on.' I said 'what'd you cut the gas on for?' He said 'because both of us are going.' I said 'what do you mean -- going?' He said 'we're going to die'," she recalled.
Amazingly, Tonya kept her cool and tried to talk Ross down.
"I couldn't do nothing [sic] but pray," she said.
It worked. Ross popped some of her pain pills, coupled with alcohol, and passed out. That's when Tonya broke free and stumbled to the neighbor's house for help. Her story sealed her attacker's fate in court.
"Tonya is an extraordinary example of bravery, and just a great -- hopefully a beacon to others who may be suffering in abusive relationships that you can get justice," Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons said.
Ross is no stranger to a jail jumpsuit. He did 18 years in a Michigan prison for attempted murder. He now faces another 35 years behind bars for the same charge for hurting Tonya.