Rescue & Redemption: How did Florida girl end up brutally assaulted, thrown off 30-foot high Mississippi bridge 33 years ago?

Published 7:00 am Sunday, March 5, 2023

The sun rose on a balmy August morning in 1989 as Amy Archer (née White) heard a voice calling from above.

“What’s wrong with you?”

It was a man’s voice.

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The man, a passing motorist, heard her screams from a shallow creek bed on Fox Road in Warren County.

Before that, she’d laid alone all night, pretending to be dead and unable to free herself from the ropes binding her limbs as thousands of mosquitoes fed on her flesh.

“I was thrown off the bridge,” she told the man. “And I need help.”

The bottom of the Fox Road bridge is a long way from her hometown of Paxton, Fla., and how she wound up in Vicksburg as a 14-year-old runaway is a path Archer said she’s long moved past over the last 33 years. The events of Aug. 25-26, 1989, left indelible marks, both physical and mental, but she said that night doesn’t define her.

The path to Vicksburg

“I had an assault charge (in Florida),” Archer said. “At that point, I’d already run away once, living in Slidell, La., at 13 and working two jobs.”

The people who would become her captors started out as friends and a fellow runaway: Two adults and a female juvenile from Vicksburg, and a male juvenile from Texas. For Archer, they were a path to escape her fate in a juvenile detention center and a bad home life.

“I met (my captors) at the boardwalk on Okaloosa Island, and I left and went with them to Vicksburg,” she said. “I don’t remember how long I was out there, but after a time I decided to leave and go back to Slidell. I had someone drop me off at what I called the Battlefield Truckstop.

“I had this horrible feeling that something bad was going to happen,” she continued. “So I went back to the house on Paxton Road, where I thought I’d be safe.

“As soon as (the adult male) opened the door, he told me, ‘You messed up by coming back.’”

Her four attackers shut the door of the home at 6801 Paxton Road, and what followed were hours of brutal torture. They beat her and called her names, stomped her head into the floor and shot her with a BB gun.

Archer said she tried to escape but couldn’t fit through the home’s small bathroom window.

“They held me in the bathroom for a while,” she said. “I don’t know at which point they decided to load me up in the car, but they had tied me up. My hands were behind my back and they put a sock in my mouth and duct-taped it all around my head.”

According to Warren County Sheriff’s Office reports, then-Sheriff Paul Barrett described the torture Archer endured as especially brutal.

“The 15-year-old (suspect) told me they intended to kill her,” Barrett said in the Aug. 27, 1989, edition of The Post.

A 30-foot plunge

The teenage Archer was hog-tied, rendered largely immobile and helpless. Her captors threw her in the back of a car and drove approximately 15 miles northeast of Vicksburg, stopping on Fox Road in the middle of a rickety single-lane wooden bridge.

The abuse didn’t stop on the drive, Archer recalled, as the adult male at one point asked another suspect to “hold the steering wheel steady” so he could turn around and punch her.

Archer, whose eyes were not covered for the duration of the abuse, said she was pulled out of the car on the bridge and almost fell through a hole where a plank had rotted away. They removed the duct tape from her head, pulling out chunks of hair. Archer tried to fight back, but her hands and feet were still tied up. The struggle ended when the juvenile male sliced her shoulder with a large butcher knife. The wound later required six stitches in her muscle and seven stitches externally.

“One of them said, ‘Do you think we’re crazy?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, I do,’” she said. “They took me over to the side of the bridge, and I remember I couldn’t see because it was so dark. They said, ‘That’s where you’re going to be in just a minute.”

Archer’s captors pulled her back a few feet before giving her a firm shove.

Rocky Bottom

While she doesn’t remember the 30-foot plunge from the bridge, Archer said she does remember the suffocating feeling as her body slammed into the earth.

She lay in the creek bed, motionless, as the car’s headlights disappeared from view for a moment before her captors turned around and exited the vehicle, shouting obscenities at her from above. However, she didn’t move a muscle.

“I knew if they came down there, I was going to be dead,” she said. “I don’t know how long I lay there, but eventually the sun came up.”

Still hog-tied and suffering from a multitude of injuries ranging from broken bones to internal bleeding to a basal skull fracture and subsequent traumatic brain injury, Archer had no escape and, for a moment, no hope.

In the darkness, she was able to maneuver her body into the water to relieve herself. But as August in Mississippi is known to do, the stifling heat and humidity made her a buffet for insects while she was defenseless.  Not long after sunrise, however, the first of many saviors arrived atop the bridge.  And it was the kindness of the people of Warren County, she said, that led her to return to the area more than three decades later.

Part 2 will publish here Monday.