Under: Self-defense
11 Jul 2009


A real life self-defense situation can be a surreal experience. Many that have experienced this have wondered – it is really happening? How did I get here? And sometimes they start getting mad and put up a fight!


Here are some news stories about the San Diego Serial Rapist that has plagued San Diego since 2008!


NBC SanDiego News: Good Samaritan Helps Catch Serial Attack Suspect


NBC San Diego News: Details Emerge About Sex-Assault Suspect


And the best overview story including earlier assaults:


San Diego 6 CW News: Serial Rape Suspect Dead in Jail; Victim Describes Her Attack 


Self-defense can come in may forms; in this story I am presenting today, the last victim, Christina Hennigan finds herself in a tricky situation and starts to turn the tables on her attacker! In this post I will highlight the self-defense story here, evaluate some of the considerations and give an overview of the serial rapist in San Diego. Here is Christina recounting the attack and chase.


I was struck by the realization when the plastic ties came out, that she (Christina) realized she had to fight back! Up until that point one might believed that this was just a robbery and everything would workout ok.

Self-defense comes from the mind first. If a person can take all of the information and formulate a good response – he or she will come out ok most times. Christina kept her head and although she found herself in a compromised situation – acquiescing did not necessarily mean she gave up!

Thomas James Parker had snuck in to the garage, grabbed Christina and held a knife to her throat. He told her to get on the ground with her hand behind her back and lowered the garage door. He pulled out his plastic ties and Christina freaked out.

There was a struggle and Christina got a cut, but Thomas Parker had enough and after Christina missed the opening the garage door – he did and fled. Christina was not going to let him go and gave chase. She is a marathon runner and was able to keep up… leading to an off duty boarder patrol agent giving chase and nabbing Thomas James Parker!

Now lets consider some things, this lady like so many other people (including myself) go about our daily routine without much consideration to possible hazards because we feel comfortable and safe. What could she have done differently?

One thing to hope for might have been to notice the guy while she was parking her car. That is a long shot even though there have been a string of serial rapes in San Diego with a similar MO, who really believes it can happen to them?

Another thing that comes to mind is if she had large dogs in the back yard – the guy might not have been able to hide near the garage. My dogs are friendly to me but do not like anyone near the yard – and tells them so.

What benefit would pepper spray have been here? My guess is negligible unless it was on her key ring (assuming she still had her keys while pulling out the groceries). That is the problem with depending on weapons – you have to be ready almost in advance.

Weapons? In my garage I would be fine as I have so many tools and I know where everything is. I’m not sure women think like men but I’ve imagined fighting with every tool I own… maybe I just have an overactive imagination?

Short-term self-defense training is one area that many women find helpful. In a situation like this with a knife at the neck – assuming you can get control of the knife hand, you can heel kick the groin or stomp the top of the foot, from a rear bear hug and distract the attacker. This should give you a chance to escape!

I always recommend that people (women, children, and men) take some form of martial arts training. That includes karate, boxing, judo, wrestling, MMA, jui jitsu, aikido or whatever! The reason I recommend this training is it goes well beyond a short-term self-defense class and actually trains the reflexes to get used to fighting! Always a benefit if one is attacked. But if one does not have to desire to take up a martial art – please consider at least a short term self-defense class.

Depending on the motivation of the attack, not fighting back can be bad. Luckily in this case Christina did fight back and was able to dishearten the attacker (or perhaps Thomas Parker thought she was going for a weapon) and he took off. Things started going well for Christina when she put up a fight!

Christina is reportedly a marathon runner and did great chasing the guy down but after the initial scuffle – she did not really have a great plan after she caught him (she got punched). She kept up the chase but backed off to a safe distance. She attracted attention that led to Thomas Parker’s arrest.

If you’ve clicked on the story links, you can see how this family guy went after unsuspecting women. Rapists are scary people inwardly but Thomas Parker seemed normal to those around him. If not for Christina Hennigan fighting back and then giving chase! This guy might have been out there for years doing the same thing… or worse maybe escalating to murder in an attempt to keep from getting caught. Thomas Parker ended up committing suicide in jail – probably due to the shame of his actions.

I would like to commend Christina Hennigan for having had the courage to fight back and give chase – that ultimatly led to taking this vermin off of the street!

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9 Responses to “Woman Thwarts Serial Rapist! Suspect Caught!”

  1. SueC Says:

    Wow! I think that woman was incredibly brave. It took tremendous courage to decide to take some action against this guy in the garage since she had no idea what the outcome would be for her. It’s interesting that she said she didn’t ‘freak out’ until she was certain that the situation was real, i.e when he was putting plastic ties on her on the ground. I’ve read that women will wait until they are 100% sure they are under threat before taking any action, which in many situations may be too late. How the hell do we train ourselves not to think like that?

  2. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Sue,
    There as a supposed study years ago that show men that worked with their hands were more likely to defend themselves than white collar workers. I don’t know how scientific that study was but assuming it was correct – I would say that learning how to fight via karate or other martial art would put one in a good position to fight back.
    Now you see how most women respond with little or no training, my wife has had many close calls and had to fight back as a girl and did not have any formal training… just the will to survive.
    I’ll do a post on one of her escapes soon.

  3. SueC Says:

    I can quite believe that manual workers respond better to an attack than white collar workers. I expect these people are just more physical generally and it is more intuitive to them to respond to threats in a physical way. It is probably less intuitive for a more ‘cerebral’ person to respond in a physical way. Convincing ‘cerebral’ people to take on physical activity, whether it be martial arts or any other sport, may be the key to helping them get in touch with their bodies more and hence be able to defend themselves better. There lies a challenge!

  4. Adam @ Low Tech Combat Says:

    Hey great story! Thanks for finding it and sharing :)

    Its good to hear these stories. There are people out there who fight back and succeed. There is no need to live in fear.

  5. Cell Phone Stun Gun Says:

    She did a great job. Way to go for citizens like her.

  6. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hey Adam, Thank you. Yes fighting back is usually the best plan. She made her decision and went for it! Glad it turned out ok.

    Hi Cell Phone Stun Gun – I agree! She fought back in a tough situation and came out ok!

  7. Concerned Citizen Says:

    I took a self-defense course at the Jewish Community Center in UTC. Krav Maga is a highly effective form of training for women as well as men. It translates to contact combat and teaches the fundamentals of realistic defense tactics. In my research to find the best martial art for my needs, I found Krav Maga to be appealing because it doesn’t matter what size you are or how strong. Knowledge, preparation and practice are the most important things.

  8. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hey Concerned Citizen,
    Glad you went out there and found something you liked! I generally like striking martial arts for fighting/self-defense.

  9. Concerned Citizen Says:

    There was plenty of practice with striking (punches and kicks, etc.) in Krav Maga, but most importantly, we were taught how to get out of headlocks, holds and pinned positions. Most attacks against women initiate from his use of his weight to subdue, not just outright striking. Men generally attack other males differently from how they attack females, due to the size advantage. Interestingly, I developed a passion for watching UFC fights because it reinforces what I’ve learned and I pick up knowledge about other martial arts along the way!