Fargo kidnapping case featured on TV show airing tonight
Three years ago this month, Ashley Ware was kidnapped at gunpoint from her Fargo home.
She survived the ordeal, and tonight her story will be told on a nationally televised cable network.
Ware, who moved to New York last November with her husband, Stefan, and works as a nurse, said she has turned down many requests for interviews.
But when the E! network called about a month ago, she ended up saying yes.
"I thought, if this is so encouraging to people, why not go with it and just share the story?" Ware said.
What many have found encouraging about the story is not just the fact that Ware defeated a gunman who threatened to rape and kill her.
She also forgave him.
Ware's tale began with a knock on the door about 9 p.m. and a stranger who asked to use the phone and said he needed a ride.
Because she was getting ready to leave for her nursing job, Ware said no to both requests.
That's when the man pulled a gun and told Ware: "You're giving me a ride."
Her assailant drove her to Moorhead, where he threatened to rape and kill her.
But Ware put up a fight.
First, she made a break for it when her attacker was walking her to an isolated spot near Highway 10 on the east edge of Moorhead.
She wasn't fast enough and her assailant caught up to her.
When the man again tried to steer her toward an area out of public view, Ware pretended to have an asthma attack.
The ruse worked, and when her aggressor appeared confused, Ware made another break, this time for the door of a nearby auto parts store.
The door was locked and as Ware waited for two employees inside to open it, her attacker caught up to her and took all three of them hostage.
With her assailant now very agitated and talking about killing them all, Ware made a stand.
Lashing out, the 23-year-old kicked the gun out of the man's hand.
When he retrieved it, she wrestled with the man, using one of her hands to hold the gun away from her face.
She used her other hand to push against the man's nose, a move she'd once been told to use if she was ever attacked.
It was too much for the gunman. After pistol-whipping Ware, he ran away.
Police set up a dragnet and eventually cornered Vincent Degidio Jr.
Armed with a gun, Degidio squared off against officers and was shot and paralyzed.
Degidio pleaded guilty to kidnapping and firearms charges and was sentenced to nearly 29 years in federal prison.
At the time of sentencing, Ware sent U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Erickson a letter stating she forgave her attacker.
Judge Erickson said the letter "deeply moved" him.
In a phone interview Wednesday from New York City, Ware said her feelings haven't changed.
"I'm just a forgiving person, I guess," she said.
"I've worked in health care for so long and seen so many people with so many different problems. I know that later on in life ... he'll realize what a terrible thing he did and he'll feel awful," Ware said.
Not a victim
Ware said E! producers traveled to the Fargo-Moorhead area to get footage of the crime scenes and talked to a number of people close to the story.
While she acknowledges that she is technically a victim of a serious crime, Ware doesn't see herself that way.
"Sometimes, I feel like he (Degidio) might be more of a victim. He's the one in jail. He's the one that has to live with this the rest of his life," she said.
Ware had no special training in self-defense prior to the attack three years ago.
When confronted by a man holding a gun, she said she focused on staying calm.
"These kinds of situations happen every day, everywhere. I just did what I had to do," she said.
"I would hope that anybody would do that," she added. "Just be smart and do what you gotta do."
Ashley Ware's ordeal on TV
What: E! network special called "I Was Held Hostage," featuring the stories of several people, including former Fargo resident Ashley Ware.
When: Initial airing at 9 tonight on the E! network. Check cable and satellite listings for subsequent airings.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555