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Monday, April 13, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Power Of Many Prayers -- Book Recounts Girl's Abduction, Recovery

Yakima Herald-Republic

ELLENSBURG - Theresa Johnson is 13.

She sings in her church choir, daydreams at the kitchen sink and rides her bike down the country lane outside her parents' mobile home to get the mail. In short, she's healthy and normal.

And to many in this windy college-and-cowboy town, she's proof that God is still in the miracle business.

In 1987, when Theresa was 2, she was abducted from her front porch, beaten unconscious and tossed into a creek, weighted down with cinder blocks. She was clinically dead for about 90 minutes.

In their new book, "Theresa: How God Orchestrated a Miracle," Steve and Pam Johnson say their daughter was resurrected by the power of prayer generated by hundreds of believers around the Northwest.

The book begins on July 30, 1987, the day of the abduction. The Johnsons had lived in Ellensburg for less than a year and were moving into a fixer-upper on the north side of town.

Unpacking boxes inside the house, Pam Johnson could hear Theresa and her 6-year-old brother Brian playing with Bible character dolls on the front porch.

Then she heard Brian whimpering. She met him at the front door, and his eyes were filled with terror. "Mommy, a boy has taken Theresa!" he cried.

In a matter of minutes, an intense search was on. For 45 minutes, friends and total strangers, cops and business owners scanned every yard, street and alley for the little girl with sandy hair.

It was neighbor Mary Draper who waded into a creek running through the neighborhood. Once in the water, she spotted a child's foot rising above the surface.

When Theresa was pulled from the water, her shorts and blue Mickey Mouse T-shirt were gone; her skin was the color of ash. Her face was marked by scrapes and bruises. Her breathing had stopped. There was no heartbeat.

Paramedic Scott Hammond: "She had been found . . . under a culvert, weighted down with concrete blocks. Estimated time of immersion was 30 minutes, maybe 40."

Hammond placed Theresa's body on a stretcher and she was taken in an ambulance to Kittitas Valley Community Hospital.

When lifesaving efforts in the emergency room seemed hopeless, about 40 people in the waiting area - several of them people who had never met Theresa or her parents - joined in prayer.

After nearly an hour of fervent efforts to revive Theresa, her heart began beating and she started breathing on her own in the intensive-care unit. When brain damage from prolonged oxygen depletion seemed inevitable, doctors called for Theresa to be airlifted to the intensive-care unit at Children's Hospital & Regional Medical Center in Seattle.

People in different towns and at different churches kept praying.

Theresa contracted pneumonia, which brought on fevers that left her weary and worn.

People kept praying.

After six weeks, Theresa went home - completely well.

Ellensburg pediatrician Elise Herman said there are recorded cases of children being revived after lengthy periods underwater. "It's not totally unheard of, especially in cold water," she said.

Lyle Roetcisoender, a 16-year-old who authorities said suffered from mental disabilities, was arrested at a nearby house shortly after Theresa was found in the creek. He was convicted as an adult for first-degree kidnapping and second-degree assault, and is serving a life sentence at the state prison on McNeil Island.

Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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