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Victim fought escapee for freedom

8/14/2012

By MIKE CORN

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

WaKEENEY -- Minnie Mong knew something was amiss Sunday afternoon when she drove into the driveway of her Trego Center residence.

That's when she spotted a van parked in a way that made her think it was being hidden. And it didn't have a license tag.

So she drove around the house a few times, trying to get a better look, to see if someone was there. And it gave her the chance to call her daughter and ask her to call the sheriff's office.

A deputy was in Collyer at the time and started heading east.

But Mong's car started overheating a bit, so she stopped and turned the motor off to let it cool down.

That turned out to be a mistake.

That's when 37-year-old Benito Cardenas Jr. -- the convicted rapist who escaped from the Ness County jail Friday night -- rushed out.

"He opened my car door and he stuck a knife in my ribs," she said.

It was a large knife, she said. And she knew it well, as it came from her kitchen, one she's long used to cut up watermelons.

"He tried to get money out of my purse," she said about Cardenas, showing how he unzipped the fanny pack she was wearing at the time.

He tried to get her to leave the car, but she explained she couldn't because she's tethered to an oxygen machine.

"I tried to hit the knife away from him," she said. "It cut my fingers a little bit."

Mong shrugged it off, saying it wasn't a bad cut, and one she didn't even notice until Monday. It was the only injury she suffered.

"If he was wanting to get me, he would have already stabbed me," Mong said. "No, he didn't want to hurt me. He was desperate."

She made her getaway, however, when Cardenas reached across her, grabbing hold of the keys in her car's ignition.

Mong wouldn't have any of that, knocking his hand away, pushing the keys back in the ignition and starting the car.

She slipped the car into drive and sped off, dragging her would-be attacker with her.

Cardenas let loose of the car just before she hit the van he drove into Mong's yard. Had he not turned loose, she said, he would have been seriously hurt.

As she drove out of the yard, she was trying to call 911 but kept hitting other numbers on her phone. All the while, she was trying to remain calm.

When she finally got the right combination and identified her attacker as the man whose picture she saw on television the night before, help arrived two minutes later.

Cardenas, however, already had fled, driving east on a county road to a farmhouse approximately 4 miles away.

There, he tied up the occupant in the kitchen. He apparently wasn't satisfied with that situation, taking her instead into the garage and tying her up again.

Authorities recaptured Cardenas from that residence late Sunday afternoon without incident, and he was taken to jail in Ellis County rather than returning him to Ness County.