LONOKE COUNTY, Ark. — It’s been 20-years since the “Blue Light Rapist” wreaked havoc on unsuspecting women across Central Arkansas.
Robert Todd Burmingham was arrested nearly two months after raping and kidnapping up to four women back in 1997.
The story made national headlines after Burmingham used a “blue light” to pull the women over, then attack them.
On a normal summer day, cars pass up and down Highway 38 in Lonoke County.
“The things I remember,” says Shannon Woods.
Woods would often travel down Highway 38 as a 17-year-old girl, until that fateful night 20-years ago.
“I was on my way home, actually from Lonoke. I was pulled over by who I thought was a police officer,” she continues.
He had a distinct voice she remembers as raspy and deep.
“I was kidnapped and driven a little over 80 miles away,” says Woods.
Shannon was blindfolded and her innocence stolen by a masked man.
“I was sexually assaulted for several hours until I was let go face down, in a busy intersection,” she explains.
For two years, the man known as the “Blue Light Rapist” terrorized women all over Central Arkansas.
“He definitely was a serial rapist,” says Brenda Hale-Tyson, a retired Arkansas State Police official who worked on the investigation.
Nearly two months after Shannon was raped, Arkansas State Police made an arrest.
“She was amazing with all that she remembered,” Hale-Tyson says.
Hale-Tyson was one of the lead investigators who worked with Shannon.
“She took me to Brinkley, the correct exit off of the freeway, the path to where this house. Two steps up, door opens from the left to the right,” adds Hale-Tyson.
It was a sigh of relief for Burmingham’s four victims.
“After seeing his picture on the news and hearing his voice,” says Woods. “I knew that that was him and so did the other victims.”
Burmingham was given a life sentence.
Diagnosed with PTSD, Shannon strayed away from the public eye. She eventually formed a close relationship with Hale-Tyson.
“She’s the only person I felt comfortable talking to,” says Woods.
“Shannon and I got to be so close because we spent so much time together,” says Hale-Tyson.
“I knew the moment I met her she was not going to let go until he was caught,” Woods says.
This year, she helped amend a law giving harsher penalties to those caught illegally purchasing or possessing a blue light. She’s working on a new book, as well as partnering with the Lonoke County Safe Haven to open a rape crisis center.
But throughout all her hard work, she still credits Hale-Tyson with saving her life.
“I would take a bullet for this woman,” says Woods.
Shannon bravely travels Highway 38 frequently. The same road, that changed her life forever.
“I want to try and take that power back,” she says.
Shannon is not a victim, but a survivor, and an advocate for others whose innocence was stolen by someone else.
“He had that power, but not anymore,” she says.