‘He is not going to kill me’
URBANA — Call it the luck of the Irish. Perhaps divine intervention. Whatever it was, it was not Patty Ebeling’s time to go.
Dazed by an attack Monday that could easily have ended her life, the feisty 67-year-old Urbana woman said she made up her mind as a crazed intruder tried to choke the life out of her that she would not go down without a fight.
And yes, she has Irish in her.
“Whenever I talk to anybody, I say ‘Today is my day. It’s St. Patty’s Day,’” she told The News-Gazette. “It was not a holy shamrock day for me.”
Ebeling is the aunt of Tim and Mark Hall, who operate Hall Brothers Racing out of the house where their mother, Joan Hall, 72, lives with Tim.
It’s located on a county road in rural Thomasboro that dead-ends into Interstate 57.
For the last decade, Ebeling has been a secretary for her racing nephews and a caregiver for Hall, her older sister, who has Alzheimer’s.
Customers and delivery people are at the door almost daily, Ebeling said. Shortly after noon on Monday, the doorbell rang. She and Joan had just finished lunch.
A smiling, well-dressed, clean-shaven man with a piece of paper in hand was at the door. She sized him up through the locked glass storm door.
“I said, ‘May I help you?’ I thought he was passing off something to me for the boys. I opened the door to take the piece of paper. He pushed his way in and I said, ‘Wait a minute.’
“He stood there and looked at me and said, ‘I am the son of Satan and I am here to kill you.’ I said, ‘I don’t know who you are, but you have to leave,’ ” Ebeling recounted. He repeated the “son of Satan” threat.
“When he was on the other side of the glass his teeth were showing, he had a smile and his eyes were normal but as soon as he got into the house, he got a demonic look. He turned into these big, huge eyes that were black and piercing and I knew I was looking into the face of something that was horrific. I just knew I was not dealing with somebody in their right mind. All I could think about is that I had to protect my sister,” she said.
History of mental illness
The man, later identified as Aaron Munds, 40, of Champaign, had gone to the office of his Carle psychiatrist Monday morning, according to his wife, Valerie Munds.
The shocked Valerie Munds, who was in Tennessee with her ailing mother, said the police told her what her husband had done.
“My husband was at the doctor’s office that morning. A nurse evaluated him and released him. They never should have,” she said.
Carle spokesman Mark Schultz said Carle had no information on Aaron Munds.
Valerie Munds said her husband’s boss had called her Monday morning saying that something was wrong with Aaron. “He’s saying things that don’t make sense,” she recounted from the boss. The behavior was so odd that the boss drove him to the doctor and left him there, knowing that Munds’ father-in-law would pick him up.
Valerie Munds said her father took her husband back to their Champaign home. After that, Aaron Munds got in his father-in-law’s car and left.
Valerie Munds said her husband was hospitalized in late August for about a week for his “break from reality.” He was prescribed medication for what she described as schizophrenic issues, but in late October, he told her he wasn’t going to take it any more.
“He said the medicine was making him sick, giving him headaches. He couldn’t focus,” she said, making his job as an auto mechanic difficult.
He’s being held in the Champaign County Jail on $2.5 million bond, charged Tuesday with home invasion and the attempted murder of Ebeling, and is on suicide watch.
‘He is not going to kill me’
As Munds backed Ebeling down the hall of her home, she grabbed a phone, dialed 911, and screamed that there was a home invasion going on.
“He grabbed the phone out of my hand and threw it on the desk. He said, ‘I’ve been sent here to kill you.’ I thought, ‘Well, I don’t know, buddy,’” she said.
Ebeling said Munds backed her into the refrigerator, put both hands around her neck and forced his thumbs into her windpipe.
“I was kicking and screaming and punching as best I could. I finally fell to the floor. I remember clearly I had that split second of ‘I’m going to live or die’ moment. I decided he is not going to kill me.”
She fell to the floor but was able to scramble to her feet and out the front door.
“All I could think about was I left Joanie, but he was in hot pursuit for me. I went streaking out the front door and made it to the apple tree. Of course, it’s a mud lot.” She fell and Munds tackled her.
“He got me to my back and put his knee into my right breast and chest and he did the two thumbs into my throat again and wrapped his fingers around the nape of my neck. He said ‘I am the son of Satan and I’m going to kill you.’”
“I thought, this is it because I had hardly any fight left in me. I blacked out again,” she said.
She then started saying “All right, all right. You’ve got me” when she said her sister came “flying out the door and she’s trying to help me.”
Hall, who has difficulty getting up on her own, was down on all fours trying to help her sister and asking at the same time for someone to help her up.
“I ripped off his glasses and I scratched his face. When he was trying to help (Joan) up, I ran around the vehicles.”
‘Where is rescue?’
After escaping Munds, Ebeling again called 911, yelling, “Where is rescue? He is killing us here.” The telecommunicator told her help should be there. Seconds later, she saw a squad car coming down the road.
Sheriff’s Deputy Brandon Reifsteck asked the mud-covered Ebeling who she was.
“I said, ‘He’s got my sister.’ He said, ‘Where?’”
Ebeling was yelling her sister’s name as she and Reifsteck hurried to the rear of the house. They found Hall sitting in a chair on the deck with Munds sitting next to her.
“I said, ‘There he is.’ And Officer Reifsteck said, ‘This is our guy?’”
“Joan was holding his hand,” she said.
Ebeling said “bedlam” ensued as three other deputies and a Thomasboro police officer showed up, got Munds handcuffed and into a squad car. He did not resist, said Sgt. Dan Coile.
Coile said when deputies asked Munds his name, he said: “I am the son of God. I own this property.” Then, while being searched, said he was the “son of Satan.”
Asked what he was doing there, he replied: “God sent me,” and said God had driven him there.
Asked if he lived there, he said: “I, Aaron, do not live here. I, the son of Satan, live here.”
The car Munds arrived in was registered to Munds’ father-in-law, who lives with Valerie and Aaron Munds and Valerie’s daughter, a graduate student.
Coile said Champaign police officers went to their home to make sure other family members were all right and confirmed they were.
Valerie Munds’ father also told police that Munds had been acting strangely for the past couple of weeks.
Married to her husband for nine years, Valerie Munds said she “never saw things like this come out of him.”
“Aaron has never hurt anybody. He rarely even says mean things. He’s a very gentle person,” she said of her husband, a huge fan of Formula One racing.
She said his behavior last summer was different enough — not sleeping, preaching at strangers, buying a $280 round-trip bus ticket for a homeless person, staying up all night reading the Bible — that she took him to the hospital emergency room.
That led to his weeklong hospitalization and the subsequent prescription of anti-depressants.
What happened Monday, she said, was “very unusual, very bizarre.”
“It is mental illness. It was not Aaron. It was his mental illness,” she said.
Ebeling said as Munds was attacking her, thoughts of her two adult children and her vulnerable older sister kept her from giving in.
The piece of paper that Munds was trying to hand her was a lottery ticket. Taken by the deputies as evidence, she doesn’t know if it was a winner.
Her pot of gold is that she and her sister are both here, even though she’s hurting from the beating and a broken rib.
“I kept thinking to myself, ‘I’m so glad he didn’t get Joanie.’ She struggles every day,” said Ebeling, whose mother and grandmother also had Alzheimer’s. “It’s the longest goodbye you could imagine.”
Coile said Hall was unable to help deputies with any information.
“She says every morning, ‘There’s my beautiful sister.’ She says it when I walk though the door,” Ebeling said.
“She’s been a blessing because she teaches you life lessons every day that there is kindness in everything. I don’t look at everything with a jaded eye but I’m always on guard.”
“I’m the baby and Joan is five years older. I got different genes. She got the ‘Let’s take care of people’ genes. I’m that way until ... I’m screwed and go on the defense. She was my lifesaver,” Ebeling said.