AKRON—The rubber industry isn't the only passion for Terry DeLapa.
The mother of two also feels so strongly about safety, especially for children and women, that she has joined GASP (Guardians Advocating Child Safety and Protection), an organization whose focus is to teach parents and their children ways to prevent dangerous encounters.
And for good reason.
While a student at the University of Akron—July 5, 1975 to be exact—DeLapa said she was abducted from Belden Village Mall in Canton, Ohio, and was held captive for about 20 minutes.
The perpetrator was Robert Anthony Buell, a former Planning Department worker in Akron who was convicted of murdering 11-year-old Krista Lea Harrison on July 17, 1982. Buell, an alleged serial rapist who police said abducted several other women, died by lethal injection on Sept. 24, 2002.
“I was fortunate,” DeLapa said. “I escaped before he harmed me other than scaring me. There are many, many other victims of his that were not so fortunate. He was quite prolific as it turned out.”
DeLapa, then 20, said she was doing some recruiting work for the University of Akron at area malls at the time of the incident. People in the parking lot saw her trying to flag for help and contacted security. A deputy rescued her as she ran from her abductor, although he wasn't arrested at the time.
DeLapa credits the Stark County Sheriff's Department for working diligently on the case; she said another girl had been abducted from the same location days earlier.
DeLapa said she immediately began to see things differently.
“I was very frightened for a period of time, a relatively short period of time, because I got angry,” she said. “I was afraid to leave the house the first three days after.”
But she said she began to think she must take control. “If I don't, he wins. It gave me strength.”
After the abduction, DeLapa said she experienced strange things. She would find her car doors mysteriously opened. She saw a man sitting on the hood of her car. She noticed someone following her.
Even after she got married, she received strange phone calls.
About a decade after the incident, she was reading a newspaper and saw Buell's photo. She called police immediately.
“They started asking me questions, whether anything else weird happened over the years,” she said. “I gave them the whole litany. They told me, that was him; that's what he'd do.
“He had taken my driver's license when he first abducted me and read my name and address over and over and over. I took it back. I grabbed it out his hands. Where that came from, I don't know. He didn't have it, but he obviously remembered it.”
In one of those strange coincidences, Buell's children were students at Norton High School during the same time DeLapa taught there.
DeLapa said she initially became involved in promoting safety at the university shortly after her abduction. She counseled women on rape prevention and safety and staying alert. She said she put together self-defense classes. “I'm kind of proud of that,” she said.
GASP, based in Akron, helps to raise awareness of dangerous situations, including sex offenders, abuse and abduction, as well as bullying, Internet safety and cyber bullying.
Today, with two children and two grandchildren, DeLapa wants to renew her crusade and continue to educate others.
“Everything that happens to you,” DeLapa said, “makes you who you are now.”