Burpee admitted to Palo Alto detectives that he attacked, threatened to kill, then beat, abducted and sexually assaulted the young woman shortly after 3 p.m. Tuesday of last week as she arrived home from Gunn High School, according to a voluminous police report filed with the Santa Clara County Superior Court this week.
Palo Alto detectives Sal Madrigal and April Wagner reported that Burpee thought he had killed the girl after he smashed her head onto the walkway. Police said earlier she may have been unconscious for a time.
She escaped from his car about an hour later in Sunnyvale and was rescued by a motorist who saw her running down the street, bleeding from the mouth, crying and screaming for help.
The saga is a multiple tragedy, especially for the victim and her family.
It is also a tragedy for a young man, who once participated in track and football at Palo Alto High School and dreamed of joining the Marine Corps, whose life has now gone terribly, terribly wrong — and for his family.
The brutality of the attack and the new revelation of its chilling randomness will remain with the community for a long time, a shadow of fear and sense of vulnerability for everyone.
Burpee's reported admission to police will also echo in people's minds: "It could have been anyone. It could have been a guy. I was just mad." He told detectives he had had a fight with his fiancee prior to the attack.
There are heroes to be acknowledged.
There are the police officers and detectives who worked virtually around the clock to establish leads. There was the alert young officer, Eric Bulatao, who linked the police sketch of the abductor to a traffic citation he had issued earlier, enabling officers to pinpoint the San Jose residence for surveillance. It was the missing piece in a complex jigsaw puzzle, Police Chief Lynne Johnson said.
There was the courage of the girl herself, who dared to break and run and possibly save her life in doing so.
There was the concern of one motorist, Fred Brugener, 41, of Sunnyvale, who after many others drove past spotted a young woman in obvious distress, helped her into his car and summoned help.
The comments on Town Square, on the Weekly's community Web site, ranged from the lofty to the base, with angry suggestions that the perpetrator of the assault be castrated. Such comments fail to recognize that such crimes as abduction, sexual assault and rape (which this case wasn't, police say) are crimes of anger, control and assertion power rather than being primarily sexual. This is a long-established psychological pattern.
We trust that such expressions of gut-level anger and vengeance will pass, as others have suggested in Town Square postings as well.
This is not a case that will pass lightly from the memories of Palo Altans or others anywhere who have followed this terrible story. While we should not let fear dominate our lives or thoughts, perhaps extra precautions people take will save others from becoming potential victims in the future.
But now is a time for healing, introspection and relief that the young woman survived her ordeal. The outcome could have been far worse.