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Teenage Victim of Convicted Murderer Becomes Cumberland Detective Who Hopes to Keep Criminal Behind Bars

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FAYETTEVILLE — A Cumberland County Sheriff's Detective is speaking out to keep a convicted murderer behind bars. Before she was a detective, Barbara Davenport-Gomez was a teenager who survived an attack by the man, an attack that killed her friend.

Gomez investigates homicides, but today she is talking about her own experience, one she had on September 13, 1977.

"That's probably the worst feeling I've ever had in my life," she says, "laying there, knowing I was going to die."

The 16-year-old and her friend were taking a shortcut home from the store when Stephen Silhan tied them up.

Gomez's friend Nancy Coats was raped and killed. Gomez was stabbed in the back and neck and left for dead.

"I can't help but think about her every morning when I look in the mirror and see these scars," Gomez says. "This is a constant reminder."

Silhan confessed and was sentenced to death. His conviction was later overturned on a technicality.

The Fort Bragg soldier then got life in prison. But life does not mean life. Now, after 22 years, he is up for parole.

Gomez sees death in her job on a regular basis, but she is afraid if Silhan is released she will be called to investigate his next victim.

"If he walks out of prison a free man, then I feel I'll be partly responsible when he kills someone again," she says.

She is speaking out because, she says, it is her job to protect and serve.

TheParole Commissionis now considering whether to release Silhan.

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Melissa Buscher, Reporter
Michael Joyner, Photographer
Julie Moos, Web Editor

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