Men who rescued 10-year-old girl attacked by David Renz will never forget that night

 

By Catie O'Toole | cotoole@syracuse.com 
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on September 30, 2013 at 7:08 PM, updated September 30, 2013 at 8:05 PM

Syracuse, NY -- When Bill Cregg goes to sleep each night, he still thinks about Lori Bresnahan, the woman he comforted as she lay dying after a brutal attack earlier this year in Clay.

"There's not a night that goes by that I don't close my eyes and see Lori as I go to bed," said Cregg, of Cicero. "It's something very awful."

Cregg, who turns 45 on Wednesday, and John Harke, 48, of Clay, were honored Monday afternoon at the State Office Building in Syracuse for stopping to help Bresnahan and rescue a 10-year-old girl after they separately happened upon the scene of a carjacking, murder and rape the night of March 14.

"What John and I saw that night, most people will never understand nor could they even imagine," Cregg said. "It's something you don't see in movies."

Harke wiped away tears and Cregg took time to thank others who also responded as Sens. John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, and David Valesky, D-Oneida, presented them with the Liberty Award. The state Senate gives the award to individuals who do exceptional, heroic and humanitarian acts in their community.

"Everyone knows of the horrendous situation that evolved, the brutal death of a woman and rape of a young child," DeFrancisco said, referring to the attack by murderer David Renz after he slipped free of an ankle monitor he was required to wear as he awaited trial on child pornography charges.

Renz has admitted he murdered Bresnahan, a 47-year-old Liverpool school librarian. He also pleaded guilty to predatory sexual assault against the girl. Renz is expected to be sentenced to life in prison with no possibility for parole.

DeFrancisco and Valesky credited Harke and Cregg with helping save a girl's life and comforting a dying woman.

"This is something above and beyond what most people would do," DeFrancisco said. "Many people don't want to get involved. Many people are afraid of the consequences. Something very brutal happened and many people wouldn't want to get involved because they'd be afraid for themselves. But that wasn't the case here."

The night of the attack, Harke, a town of Clay highway employee, said he was heading home from a friend's house. At the same time, Cregg, who owns DeWald Roofing Co. in Central Square and is a high school and college baseball umpire, had just left a baseball meeting and decided to drive down Verplank Road -- a road he had only traveled a handful of times -- to stop and buy a few lottery tickets on his way home.

Bresnahan's vehicle was on the side of Verplank Road and a child was running out of a wooded area on that cold night. Cregg immediately turned around, and he and Harke both stopped to help. Cregg said he gave the girl his jacket and put her in his car to keep her safe. Harke backed up his truck so the lights would shine on Bresnahan, who had been stabbed multiple times. Cregg administered first aid, while Harke watched over the girl inside Cregg's car.

"We didn't know how many people (were involved) or who's out there or what caused this," Cregg said. Harke took the keys out of the ignition and made sure the girl was safe, Cregg said.

Cregg, meanwhile, was comforting Bresnahan, who was cognizant as Cregg told her the girl was safe and "no one would ever harm her again," he said.

Valesky described Cregg and Harke as heroes.

"You knew what the right thing to do was and you took the action," Valesky said. "You could have driven away, but you didn't. You made a difference for both of those individuals more than anyone would know."

After Cregg received his award, he stood at a podium and thanked Harke for everything he did that night. He also thanked Moyers Corners Fire Department, state Trooper Jeff Cicora and all the police officers who responded to the scene. Cicora was the first officer at the scene, and he and his K-9 led the search for Renz in the woods that evening, Cregg said.

"There were a lot of people who did a lot of special things that evening, starting with Lori Bresnahan," Cregg said. "Lori Bresnahan fought for the safety and the love of a little girl. The little girl also deserves to be recognized. She showed strength in the eyes of evil, well beyond her years. And because of her attention to detail, David Renz will spend the rest of his life in prison."

Harke, described as a humble man, simply said, "thank you," when accepting his award. Harke's 12-year-old daughter, Johnna, and his parents, Barbara and Fred Harke, of Central Square, watched as he received the award. "We're proud of him," his mother said.

Cregg, who also has a young daughter, was joined by his wife, Darlene. The couple hugged Bresnahan's cousin, Mary Holland, after the award ceremony. Holland and her husband, Bill Holland, said they have kept in touch with Cregg over the last several months.

"When we said he's part of the family, we meant it," said Mary Holland, of Tully. "Not anybody would stop and do what these two men did. They rendered aid and comfort, and it means a tremendous amount to our family."

Cregg said his U.S. Army training kicked in that night in March. He previously served in Bosnia as part of a NATO peace-keeping mission.

But nothing compares to what he and Harke saw -- and will always remember -- the night of the attack in Clay.

"It was the remnants of evil," Cregg said.

Cregg said he thinks there are important issues that need to be addressed with lawmakers. He has made a promise to himself that he won't sit back and let someone else die the same way Bresnahan did "because of failures within federal probation or state law."

Renz was able to dismantle the ankle monitor he was required to wear because he was awaiting trial on federal child pornography charge.

"It's not so much about John and I receiving an award, but doing the right thing," Cregg said. "I think if we all try to do the right thing for our community, we'll have a better place to live."