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'I couldn't just die there': Tampa mom stabbed 13 times survives to tell her story and fight to protect her children

The 29-year-old says she was in a domestic abuse shelter to protect her children and avoid his violent episodes. His actions almost took her life Monday.

TAMPA, Fla. — Warning: The following story contains mentions of domestic violence.

Just three days after Tampa police say a man stabbed the mother of his children 13 times and led them on a chase that ended in a deadly shootout – the woman he left to die is sharing her story. 

Police say Michael Bresnahan stabbed his wife Crystal in front of their three boys then dropped off the kids at his brother's home and took his brother's AK-47.

He then led police on a chase for miles before crashing his car and getting into a shootout. Police say he died after turning the gun on himself despite 18 officers firing back at him. An autopsy is still pending.

Speaking exclusively to 10 Tampa Bay's Angelina Salcedo, Crystal says she wasn't aware of her husband's actions after the stabbing until an officer told her.

Hearing Crystal's story isn't easy. The 29-year-old mom is still at Tampa General Hospital after undergoing several surgeries. 

She's a miracle and brave enough to share her story. She says she never spoke out about the abuse she was going through until things escalated in April. 

An incident happened in April that led to Crystal needing stitches on her face. She opened up to a close friend and coworker who then told her boss. That started her journey to have the courage to leave the situation she'd been in for eight years. 

She's sharing her story now knowing it could save someone's life.

"I could not die there. I couldn't die like that. It couldn't be the last time my boys saw me," Crystal said over Zoom from her hospital bed.

She fought for her kids and told herself she wouldn't let him get her into the car. She says she was afraid he would torture her. On July 8, she made the decision to leave the home they shared and take the kids to a domestic abuse shelter. Once Michael found out they had left, Crystal says he wanted his family back.

"I don't think I'll ever forget my son's voice that day because as my husband was stabbing me in that front seat, he was saying, 'Dad, please stop! You're gonna kill mom!' He was a foot away from me and he was watching all of it," she said.

Now Crystal can't forget their reaction or their little voices. It's a shock and pain that the young mother isn't sure she's fully processed. Her husband of eight years was stabbing her down the street from the domestic violence shelter where she ran to protect her life.

"I was so scared of this man that I took my children and I ran to a shelter. He asked me if he could take the kids to the park that day. I said it would be fine," she said. "When he came to pick them up, he wanted to know if I would ever take him back. I've been telling him this whole time, you know, no, but I guess it hit different on Monday."

Michael Bresnahan acted out in a way Crystal hadn't seen before. He tried to take her phone and told her the best thing she could do is not scream and get in the car.

"The minute that I touch my son's face and go to put my lips on him, I feel the knife in my back. He didn't stab me yet, he was just poking me. He was reaching for my phone. I fought like hell not to get in that car," Crystal said.

Surveillance video obtained by 10 Tampa Bay from a nearby home caught her screams. It captured several cars and trucks passing by while the stabbing was happening.

"He was banging my head on the sides of the door, the doorframe. He was trying to knock me out so that he could easily put me in the car. When he stabbed me I thought I had been punched in the stomach. I looked down and saw blood gushing out. I looked up at his face and he just kept stabbing me," Crystal said.

He stabbed her over a dozen times. Crystal says she has 18 wounds all on her stomach, legs, one of her arms and back. 

From her hospital bed, Crystal says she's been given a second chance at life. Despite the incident that almost took her life, she says she never intended for her kids to be without their father.

"Even though he stabbed me almost 20 times and left me for dead, it still breaks my heart that he did that to himself and that he was about to try to hurt so many more other people," Crystal said.

Now her focus is on her kids. She's fighting to get them back after Michael's family filed an emergency injunction to get custody. She says they won't let her speak with them and she's waiting to tell them "Mom is okay."

"I want to wrap them up and want to make sure they're okay because I know they're not. They don't have their dad or me now," Crystal said.

While she waits to talk to them, Crystal is also fighting for anyone else who might be in her position, because they aren't alone.

"I want to help people get out. I don't want anyone to ever go through what I went through. Please get out and don't look back. No matter how nice they're being don't trust. Just don't trust," she said. 

Moving forward Crystal can't work due to her being in the hospital, but her children still have needs and she'll have medical bills to pay. Her family says she no longer has a vehicle because of the incident and she also needs a place to live for her and her children. 

They've started a GoFundMe to support them during this time if you'd like to help. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, there are resources available. You can call the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or the Florida hotline at 1-800-500-1119.    

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