In Centerville, sitting at the Manley family’s dining room table, it was hard for me to imagine 18-year-old Jemma Manley ever being covered in blood from head to toe. Hard to imagine her having almost a dozen open wounds from a rubber mallet her attacker used to repeatedly hit her.
The reality is — that is exactly what happened to Jemma on Oct. 24, 2020.
“I remember the day leading up very well,” Jemma told me during our interview in February 2022.
She was a senior at Centerville High School in 2020, and because of Covid, she was home on remote learning. That day, she decided to take a walk on Iron Horse Trail in Centerville. She had her earbuds in and was listening to music on her phone.
“I had no idea my life was going to change that day,” as Jemma started to walk me through what happened next.
She remembered walking on the trail and saw a man police would later identify as Johnny Hansen. Jemma weighed about 100-pounds, Hansen weight 353-pounds. Jemma saw Hansen and “I glanced at him and kept walking.” She said she never gave it a second thought. She walked a little further and stopped to take a picture of a flower.
Later Hansen told police as soon as he passed Jemma, he turned around and started following her. And when she stopped to take the picture, Centerville Police Detective Katie Gerspacher said, “he struck her in the head from behind. She did not see it coming and no way she would have.”
Jemma immediately started screaming. A neighbor who called 9-1-1 said, “I’ve never heard someone scream like that before.”
Jemma kept fighting and screaming. She told me, “it was instinct … I had no idea it was the right thing to do.”
Hansen hit her again and again. Blood was everywhere, police evidence photos showed blood on the mallet and Hansen’s hands and clothes.
“My first instinct was to try and use SIRI on my phone. At first, I kept saying, call my dad. I was saying call 9-1-1 in-between screams, and I was trying to get him off of me. So that was not working,” Jemma said.
But what was working, was another neighbor’s instincts. His name is Chris, and he lives about 30-yards from Iron Horse trail. He heard Jemma’s screams and told me, “I usually cower from confrontation. Something inside me snapped. I knew I had to do something.”
Moments later he was on the trail and saw Hansen hitting Jemma. Chris said he yelled at Hansen and told him to stop. Hansen hit her one more time, got up, never said a word then slowly walked away.
Jemma called Chris her “savior” and her “angel.”
“He saved my life. He came down there and that was the best moment of my life. I grabbed on to the back of his shirt and I would not let go,” she said.
Chris took Jemma back to his driveway and called 9-1-1.
Centerville police swarmed the area, and with Chris’ description of Hansen, and another 9-1-1 caller’s help, officers quickly found and arrested Hansen.
When investigators questioned Hansen about why he attacked Jemma, Hansen said he “wanted someone else to feel the pain he was feeling,” said Detective Gerspacher.
Hansen said the pain he felt was from the way he was treated as a child and now others had treated him the last several years.
“I received stitches in my head, 90 in total to close 11 major head lacerations,” said Jemma as her parents sat on the living room sofa.
While those wounds have healed, it’s the emotional wounds that have left scars. And almost 18-months later, those scars are sometimes still visible. Jemma credits her therapists with helping her deal with the PTSD and added anxiety from the attack. And she said she would not be where she is today without her parents, family, the Centerville community and Centerville Police.
“There are hard days ... and all I do is get through it. And while those suck, I have reminded myself they are going to happen, they are a part of the process,” she said.
I asked Jemma what good came of this.
“One of the things, especially young girls tell me, because of you, I pay more attention.” Jemma said her parents always told her to watch out and know what is happening around her. She remembers thinking, “it’s never you, until it is. And I hope it’s never anyone else.”
Jemma truly believes God put her on that trail that late September afternoon in 2020 because he knew she was a fighter, she had a purpose. And when I asked her what she wants people to take way from her story, she said, “I hope they realize there’s a purpose for them and for me. There was a reason God decided to keep me, and I hope they can see that in themselves, their purpose.”
I asked Jemma, what would she say if Hansen was sitting across from her at the family’s dining room table? Jemma shook her head from left to right and said, “nothing.”
But a little earlier in our discussion, she was quick to say, he picked the wrong girl.”
Hansen pleaded guilty to felony assault, kidnapping and tampering with evidence. At sentencing Hansen said, “I am willing to accept any sentence the court imposes on me.”
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