DUNDEE, Fla. -- Deputies said a teenager was escaping a life of abuse. That’s why she ran away from home last week.
Sheriff Grady Judd is making it clear: if she hadn’t run away, she might’ve been killed.
Now, she’s recovering, and the suspects, husband and wife Kris and Melissa Peters are facing aggravated child abuse charges after the teen was found stumbling in the woods.
For the first time, Michael Hickin shared how he helped get her to safety.
He was vacuuming his car last week when he heard a girl calling from the woods nearby.
"She said, ‘Can you help me?’” he explained. “That's what I remember her saying. ‘Can you help me?’"
Hickin said she had injuries all over her body and looked hungry. He told his mom to call 911.
"Her feet are all messed up. She has no shoes on. She's got pajama pants on," she told the dispatcher. “She said she can't go back to where she came from."
First responders arrived and rushed her to the hospital.
"The guy said she was dying on the way to the hospital, so I couldn't imagine what she was going through,” Hickin said.
According to investigators, the teenager told them Kris and Melissa Peters beat her and wouldn't let her eat or use the bathroom.
"She said at one point in the investigation, they treated dogs better than they treated me," Judd said.
Hickin thinks this could've ended a lot worse, but he still can't explain why these two people would treat a child like that.
“I hope they're in jail for a while,” he said.
Judd said the girl has a brother, but they don't think he was abused. He said both children are getting the help and care they need.