Photo of the Day

Mary Vincent walks her two dogs, Danny, left, and Mikey. Mary, in agonizing pain, bleeding profusely, did not die. She slowly made it to the road where a stranger rushed her to the hospital.

The Amazing Survival Story of Mary Vincent

?WARNING: This post contains details of violence and sexual assault

Lawrence Singleton was a monster. Anyone who kills an innocent human being in cold blood is a monster. Anyone who rapes another human being is a monster. And that was just where Lawrence Singleton’s crimes began. He earned the nickname The Mad Chopper for the worst possible reason. He wasn’t your ordinary cruel, sadistic maniac. He truly was a monster, with a resentment and hatred of humanity that makes someone like Ted Bundy look compassionate. Be glad Lawrence Singleton is no longer on this Earth — he was the closest thing to evil incarnate imaginable.

In 1998, a woman raised one of her metal prosthetic hands in court and pointed at Lawrence Singleton, who raped and mutilated her in California when she was a runaway teenager.

Singleton, then 70, showed no emotion during Mary Vincent’s 10 minutes of testimony as the only prosecution witness in the penalty phase of his trial for murdering a prostitute in Tampa.

“I was raped and I had my hands cut off,” Vincent said quietly of the 1978 attack, when she was 15. “He used a hatchet. He left me to die.”

Lawrence Bernard “Larry” Singleton (July 28, 1927 ? December 28, 2001) was an American serial killer known for perpetrating an infamous rape and mutilation of an adolescent hitch-hiker, Mary Vincent, in California in 1978. Released from prison after serving only eight years of his fourteen-year sentence, he went on to murder a woman in Florida, for which he was sentenced to death in 1997.

Lawrence Singleton, say his Florida prosecutors, killed a prostitute with a dozen enraged stabs of a boning knife. Mary Vincent is not surprised. He took her life many many years ago.

“He really did,” she says with a slight shudder, with awful pain in her words. “He destroyed everything about me. My way of thinking. My way of life. Holding on to innocence . . . and I’m still doing everything I can to hold on.”

Singleton also devastated a young dream.

“I’d have been lead dancer at the Lido de Paris in Las Vegas,” Vincent continues. “Then Hawaii and Australia. I’m serious. I was really good on my feet and my dance instructor had it all worked out.

“But when this happened, they had to take some parts out of my leg, just to save my right arm. After that, I wasn’t able to dance any more.”

Lawrence Singleton. Mary Vincent. Mutilator and victim. Names made indelible by an old, horrible crime that rewrote California laws, saw towns and states rise against the release and relocation of sex offender Singleton–and created incessant echoes that have unbalanced Vincent’s privacy, schooling, marriage and countless restarts.

‘He had a deeply ingrained hatred and dislike of women,’ said Assistant Attorney General Scott Browne, who represented Florida in Singleton’s appeal of his death sentence. 50 times. Singleton reportedly stabbed Roxie Hayes over 50 times in a frenzied attack. His weapon of choice? A boning knife. Singleton was put on death row for Roxie Hayes’ murder in 1997. He died before he could be executed.

It was 1978. Mary Vincent had done what many teens had before and many have in the decades since. She?d run away from home.

When she climbed into Larry Singleton?s blue van, Mary Vincent was a fresh-faced, dark-haired kid who was growing up too quickly. Raised in fast-and-loose Las Vegas?where mother Lucy was a casino dealer and father Herb a gambling-machine repairman?she had frustrated her strict parents by cutting classes, wearing makeup and running away from home. Part of that summer had been spent in Sausalito, Calif., where she lived with her boyfriend in his car; when he was arrested for allegedly raping a high school girl, Mary had gone back on the road?taking refuge, at times, with an uncle in the small village of Soquel, Calif. She said goodbye to her uncle that morning and later decided to hitchhike the 400 or so miles south to Corona, Calif., where her grandfather lived.

Standing with two other hitchhikers, clutching her sign, a man pulled up in a blue van, empty but for a single bag ? yet he only had room for one of them, for her. Ignoring the warnings of the others, she climbed in.

?I wasn?t a daredevil or anything,? she said in an interview on television program I Survived. ?I was just desperate to get home. I could not live another day out, alone. I didn?t think about what type of person he was or the situation. I was? I was tired.?

The driver who picked her up in Berkeley, Calif., that torpid afternoon was a balding, middle-age man whose blue jumpsuit was stretched over a generous beer paunch. A merchant seaman, Larry Singleton was a heavy drinker who had been convicted of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Mild-tempered enough when he was sober, he turned into a vengeful Mr. Hyde when he?d had enough to drink. He had spent much of his time on the high seas, and his episodic family life was marked by frustration: After a divorce from his wife Shirley in 1971, hewed Mary Collins, a nurse, in 1976. Although the two would remain friends, their marriage fell apart after just two years. At the beginning of the summer, Larry had quarreled fiercely with daughter Debra?a defiant teenager who resisted his attempts at discipline?and he was still distraught. ?He just didn?t seem to find any sense in living,? his ex-wife would say later. Mary?s account of what happened after she met Singleton is taken from information she later gave to law enforcement officers. Telling the young hitchhiker he was actually headed to Reno, he promised to make an improbable detour and drop her in Los Angeles. Blithely settling in for the ride, Mary pulled out a cigarette; the smoke made her sneeze, and she felt a hand on the back of her neck. ?Let?s see if you?re sick,? Singleton said, pulling her toward him. Irritated at being hit on so soon and so crudely, she jerked away and settled against the door out of his reach.

A runaway with street smarts might have been alarmed, but for all of her wanderings, Mary was dangerously naive. Singleton told her he wanted to stop at his house near San Francisco to pick up some laundry; she agreed to help him tote the bundles to the van, and, although he began drinking from a milk carton filled with liquor as soon as they were back on the road, she trustingly fell asleep.

Instead of killing Mary, Singleton pushed her over a 30-foot cliff. He then stuffed her inside a culvert and left her there to die in the desert.

Mary woke from her nap. As her eyes began to focus, they fixed upon a road sign that rushed past the window of the van. It looked different somehow. Wrong. The fog of sleep lifted and the 15-year-old realised. East. They were heading east.

She mustered courage and turned to the driver, a paunchy, grandfatherly man who had picked her up in Berkeley earlier that afternoon. ?Look you?re going the wrong way,? she said, ?and you know you?re going the wrong way.?

Just an honest mistake, he insisted, nothing to worry about. He?d just have to stop briefly to relieve himself, and then they could continue on their journey to Los Angeles.

The nightmare began when Singleton pulled off the freeway soon after sunset and followed a deserted road down a canyon, saying he had to go to the bathroom. Mary relieved herself by the side of the road, and as she was tying her sneaker, she felt a crushing blow across her back. A second punch exploded against the back of her head. With one hand, Singleton slid open the van door and shoved her inside. ?Don?t scream or I?ll kill you,? he said.

Within seconds, Mary was lying in the back of the van, her hands tied behind her. When the sexual assault was over, he left her on the floor of the van; heaving himself stark naked into the driver?s seat, he drove a few miles down the canyon road before stopping again. Cutting her hands loose, he told her he would set her free if she obeyed him. She was presented with a cupful of liquor: ?Drink it or I?ll kill you,? he ordered.

He raped her repeatedly throughout the night and forced her to swallow liquor.

The hours passed slowly. Terrified, exhausted, in searing pain, she pleaded with Singleton over and over throughout the ordeal. “Just set me free,” she begged. “Please, just set me free. I won’t tell.”

Stunned by terror and alcohol, Mary passed out. When she came to, Singleton told her to get out and lie on the edge of the road. Terrified, she heard him go to the van, rummage around a little and then walk back. Grabbing her left hand, he screamed, ?You want to be free? I?ll set you free.? Then he swung.

He struck her left arm first, severing it just below the elbow. As he hacked at her right, she kicked him, furiously, desperately, screaming both for help and in agony.

“I felt all the pain; the sharpness, the burning. And as the blood was leaking out of my body I felt the hot ooze just flowing out of me,” she said “I felt everything. I was aware of everything.”

By the time he finished his attack, Mary was limp but conscious. But Lawrence Singleton didn’t know that. Presuming she was dead, he dragged her body across the dirt then threw her off a 9-metre cliff into a concrete culvert.

She should have died there. Half of her blood had leeched from her body and the rest was fast becoming toxic.

But Mary heard a voice – a voice, she says, that was in her mind, her heart and her soul. “I can’t go to sleep,” it said. “He’s going to do this to somebody else. I can’t let that happen.”

She summoned energy and rolled her elbows in the dirt to coat the wounds and stem the bleeding, and scrambled back up the cliff. The sound of traffic guided her through the darkness toward the freeway, where she walked, naked, with her arms raised – a court report said – “so that the muscles and blood would not fall out.”

A red convertible with two men inside slowed, then sped off again when she called for help. Then came her saviours. Two holidaymakers who had gotten lost. They wrapped her in towels and?drove her to a nearby airport, where they called an ambulance. The first words she managed to say after her ordeal were simply, “He raped me.”

Any 15-year-old girl?who has been raped and mutilated has?a long road to recovery ahead of her. But Vincent?proved to be resilient, giving a detailed description of her attacker, good enough that people recognized him from the police sketch alone.?She was soon fitted with prosthetics?and returned to school, trying to adapt to her new disability. When Singleton was caught, Vincent testified about what was done to her. Singleton insisted that she was a prostitute, that he hadn’t done the crime, that someone else had been in the car, that she had threatened him, and even called her a “$10-a-night whore.”

Despite everything Singleton said, Vincent?stood up in front of the court?and pointed one of her hooked prosthetic arms at the man. She declared?in a firm voice that he did this to her.?Years later, when Singleton?was arrested for another crime, Mary would testify again. Again, she was unflinching in her accusation.

In March 1979, a San Diego jury convicted Lawrence Singleton of kidnapping, mayhem, attempted murder, forcible rape, sodomy and forced oral copulation.

His teenage victim, now fitted with prosthetic arms, was there.

?When he was done testifying and I was leaving the courthouse I had to pass him, just inches away, and I hear him say, ?If it?s the last thing I do, I will finish the job.??

Singleton was slapped with a 14-year jail term – the maximum available in California at the time.

Vincent was terrified. At home, she was having trouble with her family, still had the desire to rebel, and felt isolated at her specialized school for the handicapped. She moved away as soon as she graduated?and became very secretive about her life and location, so that she could?never be found. She was also so traumatized and depressed that she became anorexic, had trouble?leaving the house, and saw many of her close relationships fall apart. She ended up living in fear for years.

As it turned out, Mary had good reason to be afraid. After serving only eight years and four months, Lawrence Singleton was released because he’d been such a model prisoner. There was massive outrage against this leniency. The prisoner still claimed that he’d never done the crime, had never raped or?dismembered a girl, and showed no real remorse.

Towns in California refused to allow him to move or live there, isolating him and making it so that he could not rejoin society as intended. Eventually, Singleton ended up spending his parole in a trailer on the San Quentin grounds, under a curfew and?watch of guards. He joined Alcoholics Anonymous?and claimed?that he was off the bottle. Meanwhile, Vincent remained in hiding.

The resulting outrage ultimately changed sentencing laws in California that would have seen Singleton imprisoned for?31 years. But it was too late for his second victim. Back home in his native Florida, were he had been in and out of jail (petty theft) and psych wards (attempted suicide), Singleton stabbed 31-year-old sex worker and mother of three Roxanne Hayes to death in his living room in 1997. When police arrived they found him standing over her body, his shirt splattered with blood.

“I’m not going to say he’s Hannibal Lecter,” prosecutor, Donald N. Stahl, told The New York Times?at the time, “but once a guy like that has a certain bent he follows it the rest of his life.”

Singleton was convicted and committed to death by a Florida Court.

Singleton felt that he was the victim in the attack against Vincent?and decided to sue the girl. While in jail, he claimed that he searched his conscience?and could not see a way where he could be guilty of such a horrible crime. In the end, he said he remembered Vincent threatening to?accuse him?of rape?and that she had brandished a stick at him. He decided that this was the reason he had become violent?and that he had been mistreated by the courts.?He filed a complaint, suing Vincent?for “forcible kidnap for the purposes of robbery.”

Of course, he also said that it was a hard thing for him to do?because he had sympathy for Vincent. He claimed he almost vomited three times?and could not sleep for several nights after filing. This disgusting suit?never gained much traction.

Mary Vincent was not the only one who feared Singleton. His own daughter,?Debra, spoke at length about the?nature of her father?and what he was like as a dad. When she found out he was getting out of jail, she also?fled and hid, asking law enforcement if there was any way they could keep him behind bars for longer. Considering how he had used his status as a father to lure Mary into his car, it only made sense. In her own words:

“I asked California prison personnel?what could be done to keep him in longer, and I was told there was nothing.?They suggested I obtain a restraining order at the time of his release. Sorry, but I mean this quite sarcastically… I tell you he is a danger, I said that before the first crime; I?ve changed my name multiple times and am moving across state lines… And you all suggest a piece of paper that will tell him exactly where I am, what my name is, and not to come within, say 300 feet of me!”

The couch. This is the bloody couch where Roxie Hayes’ mutilated body was found. When Lawrence Singleton answered the door, his body was covered in blood and a condom was still hanging off of his penis.

There was one other woman who would?soon to learn of this man’s depravity.

Finding California less than welcoming, Singleton moved back to his home state of Florida, where he was arrested in 1990 for petty theft. He was sentenced to two years, but again, he?only served a fraction of the time.?Once he got out, he?had a lust for violence. In 1997, he lured a young prostitute by the name of Roxanne Hayes to his home, where he attacked her. Neighbors called the police, hearing the noise.?When police arrived, they found Singleton covered in blood with?the body of Hayes lying on the floor, dead. The mother of three had been?stabbed multiple times?in the upper body.

This time, he was convicted of murder and sentenced to the death penalty. He died in 2001 on death row, finally giving Vincent some sense of closure. However, his earlier release while serving the sentence for raping and dismembering Vincent left anger and sadness in those who thought that?Hayes’s murder could?have been prevented.

Roxie Hayes. This beautiful woman was named Roxie Hayes. She fell on hard times and turned to sex work to support herself.

Years later, before she begins to talk, Mary seeks confirmation that the name of the small town where she lives will not be disclosed. Despite the reassuring presence of her sister Vanessa, she seems ready to bolt from the room at any moment. She smokes almost constantly, holding a cigarette between the metal pincers of her prosthesis; her voice is nearly inaudible at times, and her large black eyes brim with tears as she talks about putting her life back together after ?the accident.? Only son Luke makes her relax a little; she picks him up expertly, even when she has shrugged out of her arm harness. When he drops his white teddy bear, Mary casually reaches over with her bare foot, picks it up with her toes, and tosses it into a chair.

Learning to function without her hands, she says, was painful: ?I wanted to totally give up. But whenever I said, ?I can?t do it, I won?t do it and I don?t want to,? a very stubborn hospital therapist would say, ?You can, you will and you must.? ? While she is now skilled enough to shoot pool and write, quotidian tasks can still be trying. ?There are times when it takes an hour or two to get myself together in the morning because I get so frustrated that I cannot stop crying,? she says.

Mary?s emotional recovery was been slowed by the sensational nature of her ordeal: Five months after she was released from the hospital, she was required to appear in court when Singleton was tried on charges of rape, sodomy, oral copulation, kidnapping, mayhem and attempted murder. With Mary present, the recording of Singleton?s statement to police at the time of his arrest was played in court. He said that the girl was a hard-bitten runaway who smoked ?reefers? and threatened to maim him and accuse him of rape if he refused to drive her to L.A. According to Singleton, she had sex with two other scruffy hitchhikers (whom he assumes later attacked her), then offered to have sex with him as well.

The 15-year-old took the stand and testified in a firm voice, but she couldn?t look at Larry Singleton. In describing the rapes, she said, ?I hurted. I hurted.?

In the years that followed, while Singleton was doing his time in prison, Mary and her family were falling apart. Living in Las Vegas, where Herb and Lucy sent her to a school for the handicapped, she began seeing a psychiatrist. As therapy brought up unpleasant memories, ?she started getting wild again,? says Lucy. Herb began collecting guns and fabricating plots to kill Singleton; there were loud arguments, and finally the family splintered. Herb eventually retreated to Alaska, Lucy stayed in Las Vegas, and their seven children scattered throughout Nevada and the Northwest.

After she graduated from high school, Mary stayed in Las Vegas, struggling against her sense of isolation. ?When this happened, all my old friends?everything just changed. I ended up having a different set of friends. [The old ones] just hated me or they were so uncomfortable that they couldn?t deal with it. I felt like a public spectacle?. They always said, ?Oh, you?re the girl who had that accident.? ?

Over the years, Mary?s psychic wounds have festered. Joining victims? groups simply didn?t help, she says. ?They didn?t realize I was bottling it up inside, so they told me that nothing was wrong with me.? In turn, psychologists ?were telling me that it was harder for my family to deal with what had happened than it was for me,? she says. ?No one at the time knew how to deal with it. It was the first time they had experienced someone like me?. After a while, I just stopped going.?

Her fitful relationships with men have been tainted by a deep, undying anger. ?I don?t think too highly of them anymore,? she says. ?Luke?s father, he understood me, and I basically understood him, but he is like [other] people who want to care about somebody who went through a bad trauma: They can?t cope with the hurt that goes on inside me or any other victim.?

Mary’s severed arms were eventually located near the Golden Gate Bridge. It was far too late for them to be reattached, so she was fitted with prostheses.


Because Mary Vincent doesn’t have hands, she can’t wear a wedding ring. So her new husband bought a big diamond on a thick silver chain she can wear around her neck. When they go for romantic walks in the park, he holds one of the metal hooks attached to each of her 5-pound prosthetic arms. It was 21 years ago when Vincent, then a 15-year-old hitchhiker, was picked up by the now-notorious Lawrence Singleton. He beat her in the head with a hammer, raped her, and cut her forearms off with a hatchet. He left her for dead in a drainage ditch near Modesto.

She’ll never be able to put change in her jeans pocket. She’ll never hold her son’s face in her hands. She’ll never have a manicure. There are many things that she’ll never do. But she’s clung to the hope that she would get her self-esteem back, that she would fall in love and maybe help other victims of violent crime.

In the end, after years of living in fear, unable to look strangers in the face and dwindling to 98 pounds, Vincent has slowly gained back her health and confidence and is preparing to step into the public arena as a victims-rights activist.

With the help of her new husband, an investigator with the Orange County district attorney’s office, Vincent has settled in Anaheim Hills and formed the Mary Vincent Foundation. The couple hope the foundation eventually will help victims of traumatic crime, particularly children, with medical and other expenses. Her campaign began with a speech in Ventura County. “I don’t want anything this bad to happen to anyone else,” Vincent said one evening, stirring a pot of pasta with a spatula wedged in her right hook. Although doctors were able to save Vincent’s life after her unspeakable trauma, it didn’t seem

like much of a life for her for many years afterwards.

Listless and depressed, she moved from town to town, unskilled and unable to hold down a job. “I couldn’t even lift my head up,” she said. “I was too afraid.” She won a $2.5-million judgment against Singleton, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison for raping and mutilating her, but never collected a cent from the former merchant seaman. She did receive $13,000 from a California victims fund but survived mostly on welfare and donations from strangers who read about her case and sent in money. Singleton was released after eight years for good behaviour. Meanwhile, Vincent moved to Washington state, where she married a landscaper in 1987.

Vincent was terrified that Singleton would find her and kill her, “finish the job,” as he promised he would do at his first trial. She blames the stress of learning that Singleton was set free for the divorce that ended her first marriage after three years. She couldn’t eat and ended up a skeletal 98 pounds. She was paralyzed with fear whenever she left her house.

After her divorce, she and her two boys, Alan and Luke, moved into an unheated, abandoned gas station in Gig Harbour, a small town near Tacoma. “I didn’t have my self-esteem,” she said. “If someone came around the corner, I’d jump.” In an effort to change her life, Vincent eventually moved from the cloudy Northwest to sunny Orange County. She found a cheap apartment in Tustin and got her first paying job, a clerical position at the Orange County district attorney’s office. It was then that her life began to stabilize, Vincent said. She began to think about ??using her experience with suffering to help other victims of crime. And after she testified in the Tampa case against Singleton, giving her national exposure that prompted many around the nation to send her donations, Vincent had $5,000 to start a foundation to support that goal.

It was in the district attorney’s office that she met Tom Wilson, the man who loves her despite her disabilities and who gives her shoulder rubs when the leather straps that secure her artificial arms cut into her skin.

Wilson, an investigator in the prosecutor’s office, has encouraged her to speak out in public about her disfigurement and shares her passion for victims’ rights. Once married but single for 13 years before he married Vincent, Wilson said it was her 500-watt smile–and her vulnerability–that attracted him to her.

In their airy new condo one recent evening, the two of them cuddle on the couch before she serves dinner. He helps her untie her apron and she grabs the salad and plates and carries them to the table, giving him a tender kiss on his forehead.

Vincent is relieved to have Wilson serve as her bodyguard and her manager for the public speaking she is going to undertake. She had not spoken in public for more than 15 years, when a friend persuaded her to speak at a high school and she was heckled by a teenager. The boy in one audience yelled obscenities at Vincent including “You got what you deserved.” For many years, she believed that. It was a personal, dark attack she no longer risks by continuing school appearances.

Now, this woman who used to dress only in pullover sweats has a whole new wardrobe–Wilson helps her with the tricky buttons and zippers–and a new outlook on life.

“I needed to know that I was loved and that I’d be given a chance by another human being,” Vincent said. She said Wilson has helped her be more playful, walk with better posture, and keep her chin up in public.

She spends the day taking care of her two sons and working on charcoal sketches, something she’s done since Wilson bought her an easel and set up an art studio for her in their loft. Vincent still bears the marks of her past. She is easily startled by unexpected noises, jumping when Wilson accidentally turns on the garbage disposal instead of a light in the kitchen, for example. She stays close by Wilson’s side, dependent not only physically but also emotionally.

Singleton didn’t want Mary’s body to be identified. So, he chopped off both of her arms so that the police would not be able to use fingerprinting to identify her.


Mary, now in her 50s and the mother to two adult sons, doesn’t use his name. “My attacker”, she calls him. The man who took her arms, her innocence and left her with little but that haunting threat and traumatic memories.

“I’ve broken bones thanks to my nightmares, I’ve jumped up and dislocated my shoulder, just trying to get out of bed. I’ve cracked ribs and smashed my nose.”

Yet when Lawrence Singleton died of cancer on death row in December 2001, it wasn’t relief that Mary felt.

“I needed to know what was in that dark soul of his. I felt I was robbed of that opportunity, but because of my sons – I saw the relief on their faces – that made me realise, OK, that?s good enough closure for me. I don?t have to worry about my son?s lives anymore.”

Some of her art work is valued at nearly $2,000 dollars or more.?She?is happy with the fact that she has mostly moved past the label cast on her while Singleton was still alive.?As she puts it:

“Most people know me because of who I am, not just what happened to me… They just assume I was born this way.”

Mary finds joy and hope in her art her children and her faith, and in the second chance she was given in the face of such evil.

?I never knew there could be people like that in the world, and I pray to God I never know another.?