A 23-year-old woman broke down in tears Thursday afternoon as she testified about being brutally attacked last week while riding her bicycle in western Lawrence.
A preliminary hearing was conducted in Douglas County District Court in the case of William Nichols, 30, Lawrence. He’s accused of aggravated kidnapping, attempted rape and aggravated battery.
The woman told the court she was riding her bike June 16 on the bike path between the Youth Sports Complex soccer fields and Clinton Lake, when about 20 minutes into her ride, Nichols attacked her.
“When I got next to him, he looked at me and just grabbed me,” she said. “His arm was around my neck.”
The woman said she is originally from Hungary and was in Lawrence to visit her host family. She said she had used the bike path at least five times before.
Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson asked her to describe her attack.
After she was pulled from her bike, she said, the defendant pulled her farther from the path into an area with bushes and tall grass. She said she was on her stomach while he sat on her back.
She said he slid down to lie on her and then fondled her.
“I knew he wanted to rape me,” she said.
She said that’s when she bit his arm. She then told the court that he flipped her over and began punching her in the face.
“I saw that I was bleeding everywhere; I asked him, ‘What are you doing?’” she said. The woman then told the court, “He said, ‘I don’t know.’”
She said he held a knife to her throat, and she grabbed it to keep him from stabbing her. “I thought, ‘I’m going to die,’” she said.
She said that’s when two young men came down the path.
“I screamed, ‘Help me; he’s going to kill me,’” she said.
She said Nichols looked at the men, looked at her and then ran.
The woman softly cried throughout her testimony. While she gave her statement, Nichols sat quietly with his defense attorney, occasionally taking notes.
The woman left the courtroom with a man and woman, hugged the woman and sobbed.
From a distance she appeared uninjured, walking and talking without difficulty. Up close, she had bruises on her face that appeared to be fading.
She told the court that she suffered a broken nose, a broken bone in her cheek, bruising, and had stitches on her neck and hand.
The only other witness to testify at the preliminary hearing was Detective Jack Cross with the Lawrence Police Department. He testified that Nichols confessed to attacking the woman almost immediately after he was arrested.
Cross said Nichols told him that he traveled to the path that day with the intention of groping a woman. Cross said he asked Nichols why he had a knife, and was told that it was “to intimidate and control her.”
Nichols confessed to groping several other women at different locations, Cross said, and that this was his first time he had groped a woman along the bike path.
Cross told the court he asked Nichols why he picked this particular woman. “He thought he could control her,” Cross said.
The detective noted that Nichols said he wanted to cause the victim pain and embarrass her, and that he got an adrenaline rush and sexual gratification from doing this.
Cross said Nichols could recall some intricate details of the day but then said he couldn’t remember initiating the attack, but he could recall being on her, beating her.
The detective said he did not believe Nichols was mentally ill.
“He was very articulate,” Cross said.
Cross said he believes the defendant went to St. Marys High School and took some online college courses, studying criminal justice.
Judge Peggy Kittel ruled that there was enough evidence to hold Nichols over for trial.
A trial date was set for Sept. 3. A motions hearing is scheduled for Aug. 30.