For rape counselor, 'the best day' at long last
On Tuesday morning, Barbie Hechavarria made a phone call she usually doesn't get to make.
After authorities told her that an arrest had been made in the 2008 Haile Plantation rape case, investigators asked for Hechavarria, the victim advocate counselor with the Victim Services and Rape Crisis Center of Alachua County, if she would break the news to the victim in the attack.
"As a victim's advocate: It's the best day. The best day," she said.
The woman who answered her phone call was overwhelmed.
"Oh, wow. Oh, wow," is all she could say, Hechavarria said.
Hechavarria said she, too, was thrilled to hear the news.
"It's a relief. In this field, we don't often see justice."
The woman had been jogging on a trail near the intersection of Southwest 46th Boulevard and 94th street around 6:30 a.m. on May 21, 2008, when an armed man approached her. He beat her and then raped her, according to police reports.
For four years, the case remained unsolved. Early Tuesday morning, authorities arrested a suspect, Andrew Payne Jr., 38, outside of Douglas, Ga.
The victim's attorney and spokesperson, Stephen K. Miller, released a statement from her and her family late Tuesday afternoon.
"The family wishes to extend their sincere thanks to the community for their tremendous outpouring of support following the incident and to the men and women of the Alachua County Sheriff's Office for their hard work and persistence over the past four years investigating this heinous crime."
In the months following the attack, members of the community held several rallies and walks to show support for the victim and to raise funds for her medical and related costs. The woman, in turn, donated $10,000 from those funds to the Victim Services and Rape Crisis Center of Alachua County.
Loretta Golden, director of the center, said the donation has helped those who have survived sexual assaults.
"The donation was a tremendous help to the program, that we normally can't do," she said.
It helped fix broken windows and change locks for victims. For those who don't report their rape, many want to leave town. That money helped relocate them. For those who had to miss work because of physical and emotional strains, the center helped with bills to keep the power on and put food on the table.
For Golden, the news of the capture came as a relief, but also a surprise.
"We thought he'd never be caught because so much time had passed," she said.
In October, it will be her 30th year with the center and she's eyeing retirement. She never thought the authorities would capture the man, let alone before her time was over at the counseling center.
"It's a shock," she said. "But it's a good shock."
But with good news comes old memories.
"Now she can put a name and a face to the memory and bring it all to the forefront," Hechavarria said.
Whether the woman is ready or not, it's going to be in her face, she said.
She will get phone calls and see pictures.
She will read the news and know more about him.
She will remember 6:30 a.m., four years ago.
Over the next few days, and weeks, Hechavarria will be there for support.
"If she has a rough night or a rough day," she said, "I'm there to talk about things as they come up."
By Hannah Winston
Originally published in the Gainesville Sun July 17, 2012