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HELD HOSTAGE: The True Story of a Mother and Daughter’s Kidnapping (Berkley; December 5, 2006) by Michelle Renee with Andrea Cagan is the incredible true story of a mother’s daring bank heist, executed to save her daughter from a deadly fate. Part Patty Hearst, part Panic Room, this story is every mother’s worst nightmare.
In November 2000, Michelle Renee, an Assistant Vice President at one of the nation’s largest financial institutions, was home playing video games with her seven-year-old daughter, Breea, when three masked gunmen broke into her Southern California hilltop house. Duct taped and tormented with bombs placed on their bodies, they were threatened with murder if Michelle didn't rob the vault of the bank she managed.
After an intense 14 hours held hostage, Michelle pulled off the daring bank heist. But this was just the beginning of her nightmare. Michelle’s involvement was called into question as the hunt ensued to capture the gunmen. On top of the post event trauma, Michelle became a suspect. Finally, the FBI concluded their investigation and America’s Most Wanted aired their story—which led to the capture of the third gunmen still on the run. With little help or money, Michelle and Breea went into hiding in Alaska to await the trial.
In this riveting personal account, Michelle tells the story behind her and Breea’s harrowing ordeal, the inside details of the bank heist, the threat of death forcing her to confront a turbulent past that drove her to succeed, and the dramatic trial of the gunmen, in which defense attorneys presented a fabricated version of events that stunned everyone. HELD HOSTAGE challenges what is right, what is true, what is ethical, and what it takes to survive.
I opened the door to the bank and walked in. The click of my heels on the floor was all I could hear. I forced a casual smile toward Maria and Lorraine who were busy with morning deadlines. We all had a deadline that morning, getting ready for the upcoming day of receiving and paying out monies. Today, I had an additional deadline as Breea's voice echoed in my mind, "You're going to do everything right Mommy. I know you will. Be brave Mommy..."
The dynamite pressed into my back as I walked robotically straight to my work area, laboring to breathe normally under the pressure of the tape digging into my ribs. I placed my breifcase on the floor on the left side of my desk. Than I sat down and opened the top right-hand drawer. There it was. The business card that read "On The Spot Photography by Christopher Butler."
Yesterday morning, he had been just another potential customer. This morning, he lay crouched in the back of my Jeep outside the door, holding the lives of my daughter and Allison and me in his pocket, while he waited to get rich.