Five years later: Woman recounts Edinburg park stabbing

Published: Jul. 7, 2022 at 7:02 PM EDT
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EDINBURG, Va. (WHSV) - In May of 2017, a Shenandoah County woman and two of her young children were stabbed multiple times at a park in Edinburg. Five years later and concerned her assailant may soon be released into the community, Whitney Rice is sharing her story.

On May 18, 2017, Rice and two of her young children were stabbed multiple times by then 18-year-old Samual Jacob Homer.

Rice had taken her four young daughters to the Edinburg Town Park to play after school, and they were initially the only people at the park but what started as a peaceful day turned into a nightmare when they encountered Homer, she said.

Rice said Homer was initially very friendly and polite, asking if he could play with her children on the playground. She said that Homer was attending Central High School at the time and volunteered at W.W. Robinson Elementary School where some of her children attended.

Rice said she saw Homer leave the park and everything seemed fine until she heard her then five-year-old daughter scream.

“I thought that maybe she fell down and got hurt. And when I went to look for her, I saw her come out from behind the playground area and she was covered in blood,” she said. “I still just thought she somehow cut herself until she screamed, ‘He did it.’ That’s when I realized Mr. Homer was back in the park and had a large knife in his hand.”

After this, Rice claims Homer approached her and she tried to get him to leave.

“I asked him if he would just leave. I said, ‘Just let me take care of my daughter. Just leave,’ and then, at that point, he lunged for my daughter again and I got in between them and that’s when he began attacking me,” said Rice.

Rice said Homer repeatedly stabbed, punched, and kicked her while yelling at her over the course of 15 to 20 minutes. At one point during the attack, Rice tried to reach her 16-month-old daughter while Homer had briefly stopped.

“I let my guard down, so he saw that and came after me again while she was in my arms. As he was swinging the knife aimlessly, he cut her on the right side of her head,” she said.

Rice was eventually able to dispose of the knife after she said Homer had set it down to go wash the blood off of himself in the nearby water fountain.

“I got the strength to stand up and tried to, without drawing too much attention, calmly walk toward the trash can. At that point, I pulled the knife out and dropped it in the trash can because I thought I was going to die and I didn’t want him to have the knife and be there with my children,” she said.

Afterward, Rice said she was lying up against the fence because she couldn’t walk any longer. Homer then came over and began kicking and punching her and demanding to know where the knife was. At that point, they heard sirens after a woman who was walking her dog nearby called the police.

“When the first responding officer got there, Mr. Homer told him that the man who had assaulted us had actually run off into the woods and he was just there to help,” she said. Rice said she was still conscious and she and her children identified Homer as the assailant and he was arrested.

In the aftermath of the attack, officials commended Rice for her bravery.

“The victim, in my opinion, displayed incredible courage and a presence of mind during this incident,” said Shenandoah County Sheriff Tim Carter in an interview with WHSV on May 19, 2017.

Five years later, Rice said she and her children are doing well despite still having trauma from the attack.

“They still ask questions like ‘Where is he at? He’s not gonna be out again right mom? We’re safe from him?’ Parks aren’t really a big thing for us anymore. We don’t even call it a park. We call it a playground because that word is associated with too much trauma,” she said.

Rice said she also has limited mobility in the use of her left arm and several of her fingers are deformed after nearly being cut off in the attack. She was also eight weeks pregnant at the time. The baby was not harmed and her son was born months later.

Rice said that Homer was declared incompetent to stand trial due to mental illness early in the court process. Online court records indicate that Homer spent time in RSW Regional Jail and Western State Hospital before being released to a group home.

“What am I gonna tell my children? Right now, unfortunately, I have to lie to them and say yes he’s still in jail because they can sleep better at night. So, one day, I’m gonna have to sit down and tell them ‘Hey, this monster, this man that you guys are terrified of, we might see him at Walmart one day,” said Rice.

Rice said she feels that she has been mostly left in the dark with regard to Homer’s case and has even been told to file a protective order against him in case he is released.

“We were kind to him. We were welcoming. We were nice and he still decided to try to kill us. That’s alarming when you have a person who could flip that fast, I don’t think that’s a person that should be anywhere but in a secure facility,” she said. “You don’t stab someone over a period of 15-20 minutes, stab them 23 times unless there is something inside you that is evil.”

Rice added she is grateful for the support the community gave her and her children in the aftermath of the attack.

WHSV made multiple attempts over the last two weeks to contact the Shenandoah Commonwealth’s Attorney regarding the status of Homer’s case but have to reach back. WHSV reached out to Homer’s public defender, but did not immediately hear back.

Homer will appear in Shenandoah County Circuit Court on Wednesday, July 13 at 9 a.m. for a mental examination.

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