EUGENE, Ore. -- The small sedan rammed the 10-year-old girl as she rode her bike down River Loop #1, knocking her to ground.
The driver got out, grabbed her by the hair, pulled her into his car and drove off.
In the next hour, law enforcement combed the area for the car and prepared an AMBER Alert that never had to be issued: after a 20-minute chase at 60 mph, the girl was with police -- and Malcolm Gerlach was in custody.
That was Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009.
Two days earlier, Gerlach, who will turn 27 next month, got out of jail in Coos County, where police said he crashed a stolen car while drunk driving on Jan. 16 -- a day after an attempted sexual assault on a woman at a formal wear store in Roseburg, Ore., where Gerlach remains the prime suspect.
These were the final chapters of a life story of crime: abused and neglected by drug-using parents, taught to steal by his mother, convicted of felonies by the time he was a teenager, in and out of foster homes, eventually imprisoned in California -- and at some point in his youth, sexually abused by an adult.
"He's a prime example," defense attorney Rebecca Davis said Friday at Gerlach's sentencing. "If the state of California had actually taken care of him, he wouldn't be here today."
Gerlach never denied what happened, but he claimed insanity drove him to abduct the little girl from the streets of Eugene, drive her to a field, climb in the back of the car and rape her before Deputy Scot Denham spotted the car near Clear Lake Road and Territorial Highway, west of Fern Ridge Reservoir.
Denham pursued Gerlach, a high-speed chase that prosecutors believe saved the girl's life -- and brought Gerlach into police custody for the final time, never to be released again.
"This young girl was going to be driven, and was being driven, to her death," prosecutor Erik Hasselman said.
A jury didn't buy the insanity plea and found him guilty.
Friday morning, Judge Debra Vogt sentenced Gerlach to 130 years in prison.
"I think we need to recognize some monsters don't just exist in fairy tales," Vogt said. "They're out there walking among us."
'Every person's worst nightmare'
The victim was not in court Friday, but her parents were -- and so were many of the jurors who found Gerlach guilty and determined he was a dangerous offender. The prosecutor said he had never seen so many jurors attend a sentencing.
The victim's father said she "used to be a really happy girl."
Not anymore. The family plans to move because "everyone at school knows what happened to her," her father said.
She won't ride her bike to school, she won't walk to school, and if her parents try to leave her with a babysitter, it takes an hour for them to leave because they have to reassure her.
"I think Mr. Gerlach should never see the outside of a jail cell again," the victim's father said.
Judge Vogt agreed.
If the stars had not aligned that day the way they did, the victim would not be alive, she said.
"I'm struck by how many stars aligned," the judge said. "This defendant, Mr. Gerlach, really is every parent's worst nightmare."
Judge Vogt praised the victim's courage in testifying against Gerlach. "He is not worth a passing thought to her," she said.
The victim doesn't need to think about Gerlach: the judge sentenced him to 130 years in prison. Even with potential sentence reductions, Gerlach would have to live to be 126 to be released.
"That is 130 years," the judge told Gerlach. "I impose it because you should never walk free, sir."
Given an opportunity to address the court, Gerlach remained silent.
"I think we need to recognize some monsters don't just exist in fairy tales. They're out there walking among us," Judge Vogt said. "We need to watch out for each other."