At 24, she was stabbed 63 times by her husband and left for dead.
It was a miracle she survived.
The wounds, now healed on the outside, left Judit “Rachel” Salas scarred on the inside — a constant reminder of the trauma she suffered June 14, 2010.
At approximately 7:45 p.m. that evening at their home in Eastlake, Salas’s then husband Brian Rolstad became extremely angry, grabbed a kitchen knife and began stabbing Salas over and over. Her two young sons watched as their mother curled up into the fetal position and begged repeatedly for him to stop.
Their boys were 13 months and 3 years old at the time. Salas’s daughter was not at home.
Salas said during the assault, she faded in and out of consciousness and when he finally stopped, saw him wash off the knife, clean himself up and walk out the door.
Two years later, her story remains a powerful one she hopes can influence others in domestic violence relationships.
Last week, at an event held by the Chula Vista Police Department, Salas recalled the details of the evening, her battle to survive for her three children and the constant fight to maintain some kind of normal.
“He left me for dead,” Salas said last week. “Through the grace of God I survived.”
Salas lost most of her blood but was able to stagger outside, where she collapsed on the front lawn.
“I was completely lifeless on the ground,” she recalled. “I couldn’t move but I could hear. It was hard to think and breathe.”
It was Chula Vista Elementary School teacher and neighbor Melissa Blum who found Salas fighting for her life.
Blum, 52, who lives two blocks away but had never met or seen Salas before, was returning home from the movies with her son and daughter when, she said, as she turned the corner, she saw a woman lying on the ground.
The family parked immediately, got out of the car and ran over to Salas.
“She had blood all over her arms,” Blum recalled.
Blum said Salas’s older son was standing next to her.
“He was telling us how Brian did it,” Blum said.
Blum called 911.
“She was conscious and very upset,” Blum said. “We talked to her and got her name. We held her hand. I told her to stay with us.”
Blum said the incident was traumatic enough for her family to go to counseling.
“I’ve had anxiety … like PTSD,” she said. However, Blum said she is better today.
“It’s a good step for me to move on,” she said last week. “To see her (Salas) and how she’s doing and her family. It’s healing for all of us. She’s (like) a miracle.”
Salas said the sound of Blum’s voice was heavenly.
“When I heard her voice, it was a feeling of everything is going to be OK,” she said.
Salas said her road to recovery has been long and it’s not over yet.
“I have been through tremendous emotional and physical pain,” she said. “…I still don’t have a normal day. I have a lot of pain all over my body.”
Salas was hospitalized for two and a half weeks, suffering a lacerated liver, two punctured lungs and severed nerves in her arms.
After recounting her story, Salas thanked neighbors, friends, family members and emergency personnel for their help and support — most of whom she hadn’t seen since the incident.
She first thanked God for the angels she said he sent her that day, describing neighbors and emergency personnel. She then hugged each person individually.
“I’d like to thank all the trauma doctors and nurses who literally put me back together, even though I was at the brink of death,” Salas said.
Her gratitude went on to include several churches for their prayers and home-cooked meals, the plastic surgeons who reconstructed her ear, face and arm, staff from South Bay Community Services and her friends and family.
“Thank you for supporting me and never giving up,” she told them.
Despite the harrowing experience, Salas said she believes everything happens for a reason and had a message for victims.
“You don’t have to go through this,” Salas said. “There is hope and things can get better.”
Chula Vista fire fighter and medic Mike Garcia, who was on scene the evening Salas was attacked, introduced himself last week, saying he was happy to see her in good health.
“This is closure for us (emergency personnel) too,” Garcia said. “We don’t usually get a chance to find out what happens (to the victims).”
In February, Superior Court Judge Esteban Hernandez sentenced Rolstad to 18 years and eight months, although Salas asked the judge to extend his time to 63 years, representing the number of stabs he inflicted on her.