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Interview With Theresa Saldana

Aired July 13, 2004 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Hollywood actress Theresa Saldana. She was nearly stabbed to death by a crazed stalker, but she miraculously survived. And now she relives the fear, the horror, the anguish, and the anger, and tells what it was like to face her attacker in court. Plus, she'll reunite with the passerby who saved her life.
Theresa Saldana -- an emotional hour, next on LARRY KING LIVE.

You saw her for five years on the wonderful television show "The Commish." By the way, the first year of that, the DVD series with our man Michael Chiklis, will be released this fall. She is Theresa Saldana -- actress, activist, assaulted, nearly stabbed to death by an obsessed stalker in March of 1982. Hard to believe that was 22 years ago.

She was author of a book, "Beyond Survival," a victim of physical violence tells how she and others overcame the fear, the pain, the anger, and learned to live again.

She also appeared as herself in the 1984 TV move "Victims for Victims: The Theresa Saldana Story" -- and a fellow Brooklynite, as well.

Do you still live with something that was 20 -- over 20 years ago? I mean, do you think about it?

THERESA SALDANA, ACTRESS: I don't think about the event very much. No, I don't think about the attack. But in a positive way, I do live with it. I feel as if I have a strong, strong need and desire always to make the most of life on a daily basis.

And it doesn't go away in that regard. I really appreciate the fact that I'm here.

KING: You get frightened easily?

SALDANA: I would say I get frightened more easily than someone who didn't have this happen, but it's gotten lesser over the years.

KING: Tell me the circumstances. What were you doing at the time? Were you a working actress at the time?

SALDANA: Yes. At the time, I was doing a lot of work. I was doing movies and guest shots. I had already done the "Raging Bull." And basically out of nowhere, my mom got a call at her unlisted number, and this person tricked her into giving him my home address by saying he was Martin Scorsese's assistant, and he needed to reach me to have me replace an actress in a movie in Europe.

And it was such a convincing story...

KING: And you worked for Scorsese in "Raging..."

SALDANA: I had already worked with him, and the fact that they had the number, she genuinely believed that this was the assistant. And she gave the address.

KING: And?

SALDANA: Well, as soon as I got the call from my mom, my manager, Selma Rubin, called a moment later to tell me that she had been getting some odd calls. It appeared to be the same person.

I called the police, but at that time, they didn't have themselves on the alert for things like this. They thought it was just nothing. They thought it was a fan.

KING: Did this person then begin to stalk you?

SALDANA: Well, what we didn't know at the time is that he had been stalking me for 18 months. I didn't know anything about it. And in fact, for the week after I found out he had my address, I was very cautious and careful. But nothing happened.

KING: If he'd stalked you for 18 months, how'd he not know where you lived?

SALDANA: He got a private eye and he got a lot of information, but the fact that I was living in New York, he got as far as New York City. And he got a private eye to give him my mom's number and very private information, but he didn't manage to get L.A. And he unfortunately got it in this way.

KING: And you were -- you were attacked in L.A.?

SALDANA: Yes. I was living in West Hollywood at that time.

KING: What happened? Give me the circumstances.

SALDANA: Well, it was very crazy.

KING: Again, you don't know you have a stalker, but you notice a crazy guy around. Right?

SALDANA: I didn't know how crazy he was. Selma told me...

KING: But he had never spoken to you on the phone?

SALDANA: No. No, I hadn't gotten any message or anything. And for about one week, I never went anywhere without someone accompanying me. And one week in, I started to relax a bit and finally went alone to my car at 10:00 in the morning. I was on my way to a college class.

KING: Daylight.

SALDANA: Daylight, 10:00 a.m. And I was not, in any way...

KING: Going to school?

SALDANA: I was going to school at L.A. City College. And I was on my way to the car and, just as I hit the car, I heard somebody say, "Are you Theresa Saldana?" and saw a reflection. And I knew as soon as I heard those -- the words, I knew it was him.

KING: And what did he do? Well, it was reenacted. You did a TV story of this, right?

SALDANA: Yes. I did. I played myself.

KING: Let's watch a clip from the TV movie in which Theresa played herself. Watch.


PHILIP ENGLISH, ACTOR: Are you Theresa Saldana?

SALDANA: Get away, get away, get away from me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's get out of here.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get away from her.

KEN PHILLIPS, ACTOR: Drop the knife. Drop it!

SALDANA: Oh, my God.

PHILLIPS: Drop the knife or I'll break your neck.


KING: The gentleman who saved her, we'll meet him later. He'll be with us.

Why did you agree to do a movie to relive something that was -- had to be so distasteful?

SALDANA: Well, at that time, there was so little known about helping victims of violence. And I had found that there was so little available to me after this attack that I had decided, when still in the hospital, to start an organization and to raise public awareness about victims' rights issues.

KING: Really? You got involved that early?

SALDANA: Yes, I did. I was taping and writing a book and doing a lot of stuff while I was still in the hospital. I couldn't write because my hands were all bound up in casts, but I taped into a tape recorder.

And by the time the movie was done, a couple of years later after the attack, I felt very healed. I'd already been through therapy. And for me, personally, it was a positive catharsis to do the film and to reenact what happened. But I also knew, especially with me playing myself, that it could bring a lot of attention -- a lot of attention to victims' rights.

KING: How realistic was that scene?

SALDANA: That scene is shocking in its realism and very painful, I think, for people to watch.

KING: That's the way it happened?

SALDANA: Yes. But as gruesome and horrible as it is, it's still only a fraction of the time it took for the actual attack. So, it...

KING: Do we know how long the attack took?

SALDANA: Several minutes, several full minutes.

KING: How many times were you stabbed?

SALDANA: Ten times.

KING: Do we know why? And we'll get to the court case and everything. Why did he stab you? I thought stalkers want to either kill you or make love to you.


KING: He was in love with you?

SALDANA: Yes. He was that kind of stalker who had an obsession.

KING: But you had never turned him down?

SALDANA: No, no, no.

KING: Usually they get -- they get angry because they were rejected.

SALDANA: No. He had an imaginary relationship with me based on acting roles that he had seen, movies and things like that. And he -- he was determined to kill me. That was -- he was not just trying to harm me.

KING: Do you remember what you were thinking?

SALDANA: Yes. I remember thinking, I want to live. That's all I could think. I have to live. I want to live. I was just fighting like a maniac from Brooklyn, which is -- you know?

KING: Were a lot of people around?

SALDANA: There were people around, and -- it's really -- it's very, very sad, but there were a lot of onlookers.

KING: People who didn't come to your help?

SALDANA: Yes. I could hear peoples' voices. I knew people were about, and I kept screaming, "He's killing me, he's killing me," because I wanted people to know this wasn't a domestic dispute or some little fracas. I wanted people to know that I was in the process of being murdered.

KING: How much pain were you in?

SALDANA: I was in pretty bad pain.

KING: Shock, too?

SALDANA: I think my mind was so focused on fighting and living that the pain was muffled at the time until later on.

KING: I'm sorry. I didn't hear your answer.

SALDANA: I -- the pain was very -- the pain was there, but it was slightly muffled, simply because I was fighting so hard for my life. And so much adrenaline was going on. There was pain, but it wasn't as extreme as just a few minutes later.

KING: What was the worst injury?

SALDANA: There were two pretty bad ones, but the worst injury was called a sucking chest wound. And it was to the lung, and that's what caused my lung to collapse.

KING: Nothing on the face?

SALDANA: No. Thank goodness. I really...

KING: For an actress. Were there scars all over the body?

SALDANA: Yes, I have scars -- various scars all over the body.

KING: So, you get a reminder every time you take a shower? Every time you -- right? You're reminded every day?

SALDANA: I see the scars every day, but they're kind of part of me now. And I don't -- they don't bother me anymore.

KING: Were you ever in danger of dying?

SALDANA: Very much so.

KING: Because of the lung?

SALDANA: Because of the lung and because he hit me in so many areas. There were a lot of problems. I had a nicked aorta...

KING: Oh, yes. SALDANA: ... to the heart. So, I was in a lot of trouble. But luckily, as you know, a rescuer saved me. Jeff Fenn saved my life at that moment and, just not long after, Cedars-Sinai saved me yet again.

KING: That was the hospital. Did they get you there quickly?

SALDANA: Very, very quickly. Yes.

KING: We'll be right back with Theresa Saldana and her incredible story. We'll include your phone calls. We'll meet the man who rescued her. And as we go to break, here's Theresa testifying at the trial of the culprit.


SALDANA: In his own words written after the attack, quote, "It was important that I be very careful to concentrate on the vital organs; synonymous with Cupid shooting an arrow into the heart and to avoid other areas of the body if I could help it."

He states that he's disappointed about using a knife because, quote, "a gun would have given me a better chance of reunion with you in heaven."




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We the jury in the above entitled action find the defendant Arthur Jackson guilty of the crime of threat to use force on (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in violation of Penal Code Section 139. A felony as charged in count one of the information this 11th day of December, 1990.

SALDANA: Once again I would like to say thanks to everyone for helping us. It hasn't been easy but now that we've been through it we're happy and I am absolutely thrilled that he has been found guilty.


KING: That was real, right? That wasn't the TV movie.

SALDANA: No. That was real.

KING: That wasn't guilty of stabbing.

SALDANA: No. He sent me death threats.

KING: That was -- two trials?

SALDANA: There were two different trials and this was a good thing in a strange, wacky way. Had he not sent the death threats, he would have been out much, much sooner because he got a 13-year sentence and had a day off for every day of good time he served.

KING: So it was premeditated?

SALDANA: It wasn't premeditated. That's why he didn't get a longer sentence.

KING: Is he out now?

SALDANA: No. He's in England in a mental health facility but...

KING: Did he do time here?

SALDANA: He did time here for the original stabbing and then he did additional time because he sent me those death threats.

KING: Now, who took him back to England? He was from Scotland, right?.

SALDANA: Yes. Originally from Scotland. He went back to England because they wanted him to stand trial for a murder they were 100 percent sure he committed. But when he got there, he plea bargained so he...

KING: Did he testify at his own trial?

SALDANA: Oh, no. No.

KING: What was it like to sit in the courtroom with him?

SALDANA: I found it very scary. Very, very scary.

KING: He frightened you?

SALDANA: He frightened me. He emanated evil.

KING: Did he stare at you when you testified?

SALDANA: At times, he stared and even when he didn't, it was very, very difficult. I never knew until I entered the room -- and the several times I had to be in a room with him were all very, very emotional and difficult. I didn't expect it.

KING: Back to the hospital, you have four and a half hours of surgery, right? You wake up and you realize you're alive. And immediately you start to say you're going to campaign on things like this?

SALDANA: No, not exactly. The first month or so was almost exclusively dealing with my immediate injuries.

KING: But when did you start to say, "I'm going to get on a platform?"

SALDANA: I would say within a month. When I was moved from Cedars to the Motion Picture Hospital, which is an amazing facility and they took me in because I needed convalescent care, just gave me amazing care there for several months. Once I got there and started to realize how little help was available, how little in terms of financial reimbursement and how unbalanced things were towards the criminal and not really for the victim,

I really couldn't believe it at first. And once I got a good grasp and realized that there was almost nothing I could do for myself, I felt as if nobody should have to go through these horrible things and I contacted people and a lot of people gave me their support and help.

KING: And subsequently, you got married, you have a child, right? The child learned all about this?

SALDANA: Yes, yes. Basically my daughter in the...

KING: How old is she now?

SALDANA: She's 14 now and she's a dancer, she's a taperina (ph). She's a tap dancer and a ballet dancer. And when she was younger I think she got things confused in some ways, in a good way because I was on the commission, I was doing a lot of work, I can freely tell you I was a workaholic when she was a little girl.

And in those days, I feel that she almost felt like that was an acting role. People would say, your mom got stabbed or some bad guy hurt your mom and she would more or less think it was an acting thing but as she got older, as she hit about 10, 11, she started realizing that what had happened was for real. She started getting more inquisitive about the scars, about the whereabouts of the man. And at that point in time I felt like I had to take time out and just be with her and help her get through her feelings about it. Because she was still -- she was afraid. I had worked through my stuff. I felt positive I no longer felt fearful of the man. But my daughter was very afraid for me.

KING: You've learned a lot about it since, right? You have a tap dance organization?

SALDANA: Well, my daughter is part of an organization called The Jazz Tap Ensemble. One of the things they do is to raise money for gifted dancers, pre-professional teenagers and, we bring them in and train them to do the art of tap dance which is very...

KING: Do you get involved with stalking, too?

SALDANA: I was very, very involved in stalking for a very long time and in victims' rights and now I have de-emphasized that to a degree. I'm actually at present more involved in helping to raise funds for the performing arts for kids because right now, I'm sure as you know, nonprofits and organizations for the arts are not getting a lot of money because there are other things so...

KING: School funding cuts, too.

SALDANA: I'm doing more of that especially because it ties in with my daughter and I get to spend time with her in that way. KING: Did you get roles after this?

SALDANA: I did but I have to say I doubt I would have if my amazing Forest Hills manager who is still my manager and dearest friend to this day hadn't stayed behind me because people were afraid. People were afraid that if they hired me, something else would happen or they were afraid I wasn't in good health. But Selma Reuben (ph) would blast through all that. She was like, no, this girl is from Brooklyn, she's a rock and you have to hire her.

KING: Did you have to audition for Chiklis?

SALDANA: Actually, at that time, I auditioned with Chiklis. He did already have the role but brought us in and they had us audition for ABC, yes.

KING: That was a great show.

SALDANA: Adorable show.

KING: He's a great guy.

SALDANA: It is. It was a wonderful show and we had some very, very cool chemistry.

KING: What is stalking? By that I mean, if I'm attracted to you and you're walking down the street and I just -- I'm infatuated with you and so I don't do anything but follow you down the street every day, what am I?

SALDANA: Oh, well, I would say that fall in a loose...

KING: Is it illegal what I'm doing?

SALDANA: It would become illegal in a certain period of time. If you are in somebody's presence and it's to the point where you make them feel uncomfortable, that's the beginning of the criteria.

KING: What if I write you a lot of letters but not threatening?

SALDANA: Sometimes...

KING: I love you. I love you.

SALDANA: Sometimes they can be more dangerous.

KING: Really?

SALDANA: Just too much unwarranted attention is the beginning of something that's not healthy and that people should just be cautious about. Very cautious.

KING: What can the law do?

SALDANA: The law can do quite a bit now, much more so than before. KING: Not 20 years ago?

SALDANA: No, no. At that time, stalking was barely known. There is so much more known about it. At the time, there was very few organizations. My organization at the time, Victims for Victims, came around and others, and there were others and they were very grassroots then. However, now, there have been constitutional amendments. There have been stalking laws. There have been all kinds of great improvements. I don't say the system is perfect today for the victim of violence, but it is greatly improved.

KING: Did anyone ever talk to the person who did what he did to you about why he did it? He didn't testify.


KING: Did anybody ever talk to him, to your knowledge?

SALDANA: Yes. People did talk to him.

KING: And what did he say?

SALDANA: He just said he had a love obsession. And that he felt that the only reason -- the only way that he could be with me was if he killed me and we were united in an afterlife. And that was as simple and terrible as it is.

KING: Do you gather -- there's a lot of that walking around?

SALDANA: I don't want to think a lot. I'm very much a positive person and an optimist. I see people as basically good. I think there are a whole lot more good people in the world than there are people who are mentally unwell. That's my world view. I don't think there are a lot of people like this. No.

KING: But like when you go up to your car alone which has to happen to you at times, right, do you still have that little...

SALDANA: No. I feel like -- I feel like the only way I'm able to have a very calm and safe feeling life is by not focusing on the past. In a way today, I'm breaking the silence. Because I made a very strong decision quite a few years ago to get off the topic, but I feel like every once in a while, it is a good thing. I have people who approach me and encourage me to tell the tale yet again. And I feel as if some of the message of why I'm here tonight and why ...

KING: What is the message?

SALDANA: The message is really simple. I feel like people come to me and say things on the order of, I can never have done that, I couldn't have gotten through like you did. And I feel like you, Larry, with your book about your heart situation and illness, I feel like there's so much more power than we know we have. Another example would be "Tuesdays With Morrie," the book. It's one of my favorite books.

KING: Oh, a great book.

SALDANA: And I feel a close relationship to Morrie Schwartz. I feel as if I'm like Morrie, but I didn't die. And I feel like it's my message. Right now I'm writing another book called -- called "Action the Antidote." And my message really is, if you're helping people and you are active and you keep a positive view, you can surmount anything.

KING: What do you tell people to do if they do get a letter like this, or a phone call that's strange?

SALDANA: I never, ever discourage people from seeking more information. I think it's really important to keep -- keep the letters. Keep things on tape.

KING: Contact the authorities?

SALDANA: Contact the authorities. And I think there are two things. Stay calm and stay alert, are the two most simple things, to stay calm and alert, because it's very good to be cautious and it can be harmful to be paranoid.

KING: We'll take a break and come back and include your phone calls for Theresa Saldana. In the last two segments of the show, Jeff Fenn, who now is a sergeant with the L.A. County Sheriff's Office who then was a delivery man, the man who saved her, will join us. We'll take your calls for Theresa Saldana. Don't go away.


SALDANA: The person grabbed me from behind and put me in a chest hold, and took a 5 1/2 inch knife and plunged it into my chest four times, puncturing my left lung four times. My left lung collapsed. He also stabbed me under the rib cage. He stabbed me multiple times on the legs, the right arm, the right hand.



SALDANA: The most frightening aspect about them was that for the first time since this happened, he stated that he had other people who are in place to murder me, because I was aware, especially after reading the letter I received in 1984, the 89-page document, that he had befriended other criminals and had spoken to them about means of murder.


KING: Do you believe that?

SALDANA: At the time, I was very, very scared.

KING: You -- I think you wrote that the damage was more psychological than physical in retrospect.

SALDANA: I would say so. I would say...

KING: They took control of your life, right? They begin to -- they put you in fear.

SALDANA: I think, I think when the death threats came in, yes. That was a period where I went down into fear again, and I think -- I think it probably was very helpful that I had such a tight knit family. My Brooklyn family. My mom, my dad and my sister Maria. And, spirituality to keep me centered. I medicated every day. I prayed every day. I really got into a kind of peaceful place where I couldn't have...

KING: Did you have a tough time dating?

SALDANA: It's so funny. I was married at the time.

KING: Oh, you were married?

SALDANA: Yes. I'm married to someone else now. We have a daughter. But that was my first marriage.

KING: Was your husband supportive at the time?

SALDANA: At the time, as much as possible. He had a very, very hard time, and for sure, our divorce had something to do with what happened, yes.

KING: Fairfax, Virginia, as we go to calls for Theresa Saldana. Hello.

CALLER: Yes, hi, Theresa. God bless you. I think you are a wonderful, wonderful, strong, amazing woman. My question is, would you consider doing another TV show some day?

SALDANA: Oh, yes. I want to.

KING: You're back to acting now?

SALDANA: Yes. In fact, what I did for the last four years since "Commish," my daughter really needed my attention. She really wanted me to be with her, and although it's great when you can combine working with motherhood, it is real tough in show business, and my daughter had a lot of fears about my safety and a lot of need for me to be around, and to understand that I was OK with all this and not afraid.

So I did spend time with her, and actually, now, she's 14, she's going into high school. She wants me to go back to work. I have a developing deal with Fred Winetrap (ph), a producer. We should be doing something in '05. The DVD of "Commish" is coming out. I'm doing writing and I'm really -- I'm really interested to get back on TV again.

In fact, as I told you off air, Larry, I'm -- I'm seriously considering doing a talk show. I've been approached by a couple of producers. And I think that would be something wonderful, to ask the questions instead of being the interviewee.

KING: That appeals to you?

SALDANA: Yes, very much so. I love your job.

KING: I got a good job. Durant, Oklahoma, hello.

CALLER: Yes. Hello, Larry. Hello, Theresa.


CALLER: I'm so thankful that you're alive, Theresa.

SALDANA: Thank you.

CALLER: I know that was a close call. My question is this, I know that other notorious stalkers in history have -- they have obsessions with certain types of people. You know, I watched the "Criminal Profiles" sometimes. Was this man ever previously obsessed with any other female celebrity or Hispanic female celebrity that you know of?

SALDANA: No. He was obsessed with a Hispanic male -- I'm Puerto Rican -- I'm half Puerto Rican, half Italian. And...

KING: Well, wouldn't want you to get mad at me.

SALDANA: I know. That Brooklyn thing. But he was obsessed with a male named Johnny Cordero (ph). And according to...

KING: Really? Stalked him?

SALDANA: He did not stalk him. I believe the man was deceased by the time he developed the obsession on me, but there was a strong physical resemblance between myself and this male. Strange.

KING: Did he first see you on television? Is that where he saw you?

SALDANA: He saw me in feature films. I had already done "Raging Bull." I did a movie "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" with Robert Zemeckis, and another feature film with Jan-Michael Vincent. He had seen me in those three and something else over in his native country, Scotland. And from that point on, he started tracking me.

KING: Did he come from Scotland for you?

SALDANA: Yes, he did. Unfortunately.

KING: Oh, you had to be pretty. (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We'll take a break and be back with more phone calls, and then we'll meet Jeff Fenn, the man who rescued her. Don't go away.


SALDANA: ... jail, he's continued to threaten me. I consider him a direct threat to me today. I know he is off to England, and I know he is standing trial for murder. There are no guarantees on the outcome of that. So therefore, I must say that I'm not completely, 100 percent relieved. I'm grateful that he's in secure custody today, but certainly there are many more miles to go.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Arthur Jackson, now serving time for the brutal stabbing of actress Theresa Saldana, was scheduled to be released from prison next week, but the Los Angeles district attorney is using a previously unused law that could keep Jackson behind bars. Jackson has been threatened Saldana ever since he was convicted of attempted murder seven years ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These counts that are being filed to today have the ability to keep this person in prison until the year 2000.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Scottish drifter has a history of mental problems and has been obsessed with Saldana since seeing her in "Raging Bull." Jackson says he believes it's his divine mission to kill her.

SALDANA: To suddenly after a nice seven years of struggle and getting better and now doing wonderful again, to have to think that this could happen all over again.


KING: He contacted you from prison after he was convicted?


KING: What -- did he write you?

SALDANA: He wrote letters and he sent them through a talk show producer and asked the talk show producer to get it to a family member. It was gotten to my family. And then, it was read to me over the phone.

KING: And then did the talk show book you?


SALDANA: Probably. They probably did. Yes, it was a talk show that I did, yes.

KING: Los Angeles, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Theresa. Hi, Larry.



CALLER: I was just wondering if, Theresa, if you have been asked to be consultants to other celebrities who have had stalker problems.

SALDANA: Oh, I have. I have done so. I have met with people, mainly privately.

KING: Some have been killed, right?

SALDANA: Yes. In fact, after Rebecca Schaeffer was killed, quite a few people contacted me through mutual friends, and through professional people, publicists and agents and the like. And I have talked to others.

KING: Is stalking among celebrities fairly common?

SALDANA: I wouldn't call it common. I would say it is a problem that has grown recently and certainly more is known about it. So I think there are more things that people in the public eye can do to protect themselves.

KING: Do we know what causes a stalker to be a stalker?.

SALDANA: I believe not.

KING: No studies?

SALDANA: Not really.

KING: Kingston, Ontario, hello.

CALLER: Hello.


CALLER: Hi, Theresa. I wanted to ask if you think the legal system has changed enough now that if this man comes up to trial, would he end up staying longer in jail or have we done enough?

SALDANA: I do believe that with the very positive changes that have happened since my attack, that he would have been given a much longer term. If this attack occurred right now, he would be given a much longer term. I believe there have been profound changes in the system which are very positive and which make the system quite a bit more fair. However, I don't think...


SALDANA: Yes. I do not think -- I do not think it is equal yet. I still do think there's a fair amount weighted towards the criminals, still. However, there are many organizations now, a lot of legislation going on. When I had my daughter, I stepped down from the victims' rights movement, but occasionally I still go out and meet people informally and it is still a problem. There are still problems. However, I do think there's been a lot of improvements.

KING: Keller, Texas, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry.


CALLER: Theresa, I wanted to ask how much more aware are you now of your environment, say when you are walking in public in a parking lot, and what precautions do you take and would you advocate for other women?

SALDANA: I do advocate for other women many things. And I think the most important thing is to be cautious but not paranoid. To not drive yourself crazy with fear. Whether it's fear that something might happen or if you have had something occur, that it may happen again. So, I think it's important to be calm, clear, very formal and one of the most important things is to not give out so much of your information. I see lots of gals giving out their check information and it's got an actual address there and their phone number. Just the other day I was in a coffee shop in Starbucks and someone was giving me their number. I was like, oh please, don't write your address there.

KING: Don't put your address down.

SALDANA: Don't put your address down. Don't keep your door...

KING: What about mace or whistle or...

SALDANA: I think whatever makes the individual feel safe is perfectly good as long as it's legal.

KING: Canton, Ohio, hello.

CALLER: Hello. I'm just curious what the onlookers according to the clip anyway that you showed and them not doing anything, was that possibly the catalyst for the law that, you know, certain person could be charged if they just stand by and watch and not do anything with the exception of the gentleman that did come to save you. God bless him.

SALDANA: Yes. It was among -- it was among the reasons.

KING: Did anybody ever go and talk to any of those people?

SALDANA: You know, one really can't -- I don't think one can blame or judge. And I have to say in defense of the people who were there, there were quite a few elderly people. And I think some people were in a state of shock or conflict. And some of them were looking at it almost as if they were watching TV.

KING: Really, cars driving by?

SALDANA: I don't recall cars so much, as I recall bystanders and the hubbub of voices.

KING: Ambulance come -- did you -- were you ever go out? Were you ever unconscious?

SALDANA: Unconscious -- no.

KING: You were never unconscious?

SALDANA: No. Those strong Puerto Rican/Italian genes kept me awake. I stayed awake, and thank goodness, because that's one of the reasons I survived, is to be able to stay alert and cognizant and able to talk to the people who were helping me.

KING: And the ambulance got there quick?

SALDANA: Fairly quickly. Never quickly enough.

KING: It's never enough. We're going to take a break and when come back, we'll be joined by Jeff Fenn who rescued Theresa.

I understand, you haven't seen him in some time.

SALDANA: I haven't seen him in a few years, yes.

KING: Jeff Fenn is now a sergeant with the L.A. County Sheriff's Office. The man who rescued here, is next with Theresa. Don't go away.


SALDANA: I fought for as long as I could and then I felt myself starting to lose my balance and I fell to the ground. And as I did, I saw a man, Jeff Fenn, lifting the attacker away from me. And then, I -- I looked up and saw that he was holding on to him. And, I jumped up and I saw that there was blood spewing out of my left lung, forcefully. So I put my hand over it. And I got up and I actually got myself up the stairs to the apartment complex and through a gate and then I collapsed.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's get out of here.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get away from her.

KEN PHILLIPS, ACTOR: Drop the knife. Drop it!

SALDANA: Oh, my God.

PHILLIPS: Drop the knife or I'll break your neck.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: That's from the TV movie all about this story. Theresa Saldana remains with us, the actress who was assaulted and nearly stabbed to death. And the gentleman who rescued her is Jeff Fenn. He was a delivery man at the time. Jeff is now a sergeant with the L.A. County Sheriff's Office, the Altadena station.

You don't look like that guy, Jeff.


KING: All right.

FENN: Hardly.

SALDANA: He used to look like that.

KING: What kind of work were you doing then?

FENN: I was delivering bottled water for a company out here in California called Sparklets.

KING: And what happened?

FENN: Basically, I think it was about, what, 10:00 in the morning. And I was up delivering in Theresa's neighborhood. There was a lot of apartments there. I believe I was on the second floor of an apartment building, and I heard what I thought was a female screaming, but it wasn't -- positive what it was.

But when I looked down from the balcony I was on, I could see people in the street looking towards the middle of the street like something was going on. And so, being curious, I went down there and I could still hear the screams. And when I got down to the middle of the street, I could see a male and a female struggling in the middle of the street.

I didn't know what it was, because they both had their backs to me. I thought maybe it was a domestic dispute or maybe a purse snatching or a robbery -- something of that type going on. But when I saw everyone kind of watching it like it was a, you know, Shakespearean play or something, I went up to -- at least break it up. And that's when I grabbed the individual, the male from behind, and found at that time that he had a knife.

KING: Did that have anything to do with leading to your later becoming a cop?

FENN: I had wanted to be a cop since I was a child. I had an uncle that was with the Iowa State Troopers for 40 years. And it hastened the opportunities, let's say. Yes.

KING: When did you get to meet Jeff, Theresa?

SALDANA: Oh, he came to visit me.

KING: He -- oh, you went to the hospital?

FENN: Yes. I think a week-and-a-half, a couple weeks after the attack.

KING: Did you think she would make it?

FENN: No. In fact, the day of the assault, detectives from the West Hollywood Sheriff Station picked me up at the scene, took me back to the station. And I'd waited there for maybe four or five hours and finally asked one of the detectives why I was waiting so long. And he told me that the homicide detectives were out at the scene and that they would be the ones coming back to talk to me.

So, I assumed...

KING: You thought she was dead.

FENN: I assumed she had died.

KING: Did the guy say anything to you when you grabbed him?

FENN: Once I got him on the ground and got the knife away from him, he told me that he had a heart condition and that I could let him go. And then, when he learned I wasn't going to let him go, he told me that everything was in a bag and -- I was laying on top of him on the ground.

He was on his stomach, face down, and I was on top of him there. And there was a bag about four or five feet directly in front of us laying on its side, and he kept nodding at the bag.

KING: The medicine was in there?

FENN: No. It was a manuscript he had written. And he said it's all -- it's all written down...

KING: An explaination.

FENN: Yes, in his little diary.

KING: Who called the ambulance? Who called...

FENN: I have no idea. I was too involved. Once I found out he had a knife, I was tied up in what I was doing.

KING: Do you have some thoughts as to why people just stood around?

FENN: I think it's different for each individual. I think some people actually saw what was going on. It scared them. I think some -- a lot of people don't want to get involved in anything regardless of what it is. I think there's various reasons.

KING: Do you realize, Theresa, he don't come, you're dead, right?


KING: Right? Because the guy wasn't going to stop.

SALDANA: I realized that very much. When I looked up and saw Jeff, I literally thought he was an angel. To me, he appeared -- it appeared like a blonde male angel, and he lifted the person off me.

KING: Do you ever question why you ran to it?

FENN: Why I did...

KING: Why'd you run right to it?

FENN: Yes. I mean, in retrospect -- now, 22, 23 years -- yes.

KING: He could have turned, knifed you.

FENN: Yes. I think it's a combination. I mean, it's easy to say now 23 years later that I knew what I was doing, but I -- in fact, I didn't. I didn't know he had a knife, and by the time I figured out that he did have a knife, it was too late to let go of him or I would have been attacked.

Why'd I do it? I don't know. The way I was brought up? I was raised in the Midwest for the most part. And back there, people tend to help each other more than they do in some of the big cities. And that's a possibility.

KING: How strident were her screams?

FENN: Very loud. Extremely loud. And that's why I couldn't tell with all the traffic from the -- from cars and people talking, it was hard to tell where it was coming from in the beginning. But because I was back in the back off the street a-ways. But it was loud enough for me to hear her on the second floor of an apartment building off the street.

KING: What are your feelings about him?


KING: You haven't seen him in a while, right?

SALDANA: I haven't seen him in a few years, which is unusual for us. We usually got together for the kids' birthdays and for holidays and -- Jeffrey is always part of my life. I would not be here if it wasn't for him.

And we became friends afterwards. We saw each other socially with our spouses. Our children play together. But in the end, this man is the reason why I'm alive.

KING: It's the reason why you have a daughter.

SALDANA: Yes, it is.

KING: You like being a cop?

FENN: I love it. Definitely. It's -- it's kind of my calling. I really, really love my job.

KING: We'll be back with some more moments; take a few more calls for Theresa Saldana and Jeff Fenn. You don't meet heroes very often.

We'll be right back.


SALDANA: I especially recall that he said that there was no police protection or FBI protection or bullet-proof vest that could save me. That if certain demands of his weren't met by a certain date, that my life would be forfeited. I was referred to repeatedly as Assassination Target Theresa Saldana.




ROBERT DENIRO, ACTOR: Now, what do you want, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) or what?

JOE PESCI, ACTOR: Get out of here.

DENIRO: Take the baby, get out of here. Everybody all of a sudden is an Italian about this. (UNINTELLIGIBLE), first of all?

SALDANA: She didn't mean nothing.

PESCI: Who asked you?

SALDANA: You're going to start with me now?

PESCI: People are talking. You don't interrupt. It's none of your business, especially if it's my brother and his wife. It got nothing to do with you. Get out of here. Go inside. Get, take the baby inside.


PESCI: Change those diapers, can't you see (UNINTELLIGIBLE) cry, she stinks.

SALDANA: You make her cry.

PESCI: I'm going to make you cry.



KING: Did you like working with Joe Pesci?

SALDANA: Oh, yeah.

KING: They were all not bad?

SALDANA: Not bad. DeNiro, Pesci and Scorsese, not bad.

KING: It was not bad. Providence, Rhode Island, hello.

CALLER: Hi. How are you?


CALLER: Theresa, first of all, you're very brave. Congratulations on what you have accomplished. I can't believe -- you know, you set an example for all women.

I just wanted to know, were you awarded in any way by like, you know, the city or the state for what you did?

FENN: Oh, yeah. I got several -- I got...


FENN: City, state. I got the Carnegie Medal, which was a foundation started by Andrew Carnegie back in the early I believe 1920s for -- it was a heroes' fund.

KING: Did you go to New York to get that?

FENN: No. They sent it to me.

KING: What advice do you give to people if a woman gets a letter?

FENN: It depends on what's in the letter. I mean, if it's something that for some reason she thinks it's...

KING: It scares...

FENN: ... worrisome, hold on to it. Normally we'll take some kind of a report. Things like that. You have to be vigilant. You have to know where you're at. You have to keep your guard up. You can't leave your windows open at night. Can't leave your doors unlocked. You just have to watch what's around you.

KING: Do you -- you can become paranoid, right, Theresa?

SALDANA: You could be paranoid. But my honest advice to anyone who could possibly do so is to not let yourself become paranoid. Whether you have had something occur already or not. It's really easy to be -- to be less vigilant when you're paranoid. Because you're so jumpy that you don't think straight. I think it's important to stay more calm and to also not project your fear.

KING: By the way, in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) area, Jeff, but since you're here, are policemen trained in the new terror alerts and?

FENN: Yes, yes. We get regular updates, terror alerts. We all know where our areas are, most vulnerable areas are, and yeah, we get regular training.

KING: Beechgrove, Indiana, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Larry, hi. I enjoy your show so much.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: Theresa, I'm so glad that you survived all this. I am a handicapped lady, and I wondered if you would have any words for how someone like me might defend ourselves in that sort of a situation.

KING: Are you in a wheelchair?

CALLER: I walk with a cane, and I can -- I barely walk. So...

SALDANA: I think in every -- I know that in every major city, there are self-defense groups. I know there's a group, for example, in Los Angeles called Impact. And when they have somebody who has a special need, a special physical need, they will work with them and help them to learn self-defense that's tailored to you, in your chair or using a cane. Actually, what people do who have a physical disability is use the disability to their disadvantage, and there are ways to learn that.

KING: Jeff, are police officers more and more alert to victims? To potential victims? To not just stalkers, but domestic violence.

FENN: Oh, much more so now than when I first came on. When I came on the department 22 years ago, it was basically left up to the officer at the scene whether he took someone to jail or not. Now...

KING: When a man hits his wife, and they said it was nothing, he left? The cop left?

FENN: Exactly. Or they had the man leave the house for the night and they got back together the next day. Now, it's mandated we take someone to jail.

KING: Last call, Lafayette, Indiana, hello.

CALLER: Hi. I was wondering, Theresa, I was wondering if you are going to do a reunion of "The Commish" with Michael Chiklis.

SALDANA: Well...

KING: What about a reunion show?

SALDANA: I think that would be a wonderful idea. They're releasing the DVDs starting this fall. And they're going to bring out one season every six months, and we just recently went into the studio and shot information like us recollecting the time of the shooting of that series, and yeah, I think that would be a wonderful idea. People are very fond of that show.

KING: That was a great series, and you were great in it.

SALDANA: Thank you.

KING: Continued good luck, Theresa.

SALDANA: Thank you.

KING: Jeff, congratulations, great meeting you.

FENN: Thank you. Nice meeting you.

KING: I think they have chosen well at the L.A. County Sheriff's Office.


KING: Theresa Saldana and Jeff Fenn. Quite a story. I'll be back to tell you about tomorrow night right after this.


KING: Tomorrow night on this program, Josh Nichols will be with us. You may not know him, but you know his father. His father is Terry Nichols of Oklahoma City fame, or infamy. Josh Nichols tomorrow evening. There will be other subjects we'll cover too.

Speaking of a man who covers a lot of subjects, hey, my man, Aaron Brown, will host "NEWSNIGHT" from New York, from Gotham, from the Big Apple. If anybody ever equates with the Big Apple, it's the big man. The big man is Mr. B. Go.


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