Amid its ongoing starvation campaign in Gaza, Israel is continuing to carpet bomb Palestinian families in refugee camps, schools, homes, and hospitals, while forcing hundreds of thousands to flee for their lives in the world’s largest open-air prison.

The Lancet, a peer-reviewed medical journal and one of the highest-impact academic journals in the world, estimates that Israel has killed more than 186,000 Palestinians since October 2023. Its July 5th study found the actual death toll is far higher than 38,000 because the UN’s death toll does not account for the thousands of bodies still buried under rubble, nor does it account for deaths caused by Israel’s destruction of health facilities and food distribution systems in Gaza.

As part of its genocide efforts, Israel has also falsely accused UNRWA’s employees of terrorism and killed more than 197 of its aid workers. Israel has never provided proof of its terror claims, and a massive international investigation on April 22 found no evidence of terrorism with UNRWA workers

Please consider giving to this vital UN aid agency, especially as the U.S. continues to fund Israel’s genocide – no matter how many “red lines” it crosses.

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How Abby Hernandez Convinced Her Kidnapper To Let Her Go


Missing poster for Abby Hernandez after she disappeared

Abby Hernandez was kidnapped at 14 years old in a small New Hampshire town and spent the following 9 months in her abuser’s captivity. Missing posters like this were shared widely on social media in the months after her disappearance. (Source)

Updated June 3, 2024

Originally published on January 5, 2023 ~ By Shari Rose

Abby Hernandez spent more than 9 months captive in a shed but never lost the will to escape her kidnapper

Abigail “Abby” Hernandez was 14 years old when she was kidnapped and held captive for 9 months in a shed by a man named Nate Kibby. In spite of the abhorrent and shocking abuse she endured daily from her captor, Hernandez knew she had to gain her kidnapper’s trust in order to eventually escape him. This teenage girl’s resolve to stay alive in Kibby’s shed over those horrifically abusive months is a true story of perseverance and hope despite unfathomable circumstances. 

2013 Kidnapping of Abby Hernandez

Before her kidnapping, Abby Hernandez was a 14-year-old freshman at Kennett High School in North Conway, a small New Hampshire town with a population of 2,000. She walked to and from school every day, and October 9, 2013 was no different. The school librarian watched Hernandez leave campus around 2:30pm, and the teen walked her usual route home. 

Abigail "Abby" Hernandez

Undated photo of Abby Hernandez taken before the 2013 kidnapping. (Source

On the day she disappeared, Hernandez was wearing new boots that hurt her feet as she broke them in. While she trekked along the roadway after school, a man driving a pickup truck asked if she wanted a ride home. Seeking relief for her aching and blistering feet, Abby Hernandez agreed to get in the man’s vehicle for a short ride to her mother’s house. However, the seemingly kind stranger, a local resident named Nathaniel “Nate” Kibby showed his true intentions within minutes after picking her up. 

Kibby quickly pulled a gun on Hernandez and threatened the girl, saying, “If you try to scream or try to escape or make any effort to escape, there will be consequences.”

Hernandez says that she realized she had to work with her kidnapper to try and get him to trust her. She reassured Kibby that he wouldn’t get caught if he released her, and that he could still do the right thing. 

“I said, ‘I don’t judge you for this. If you let me go, I won’t tell anybody about this, you actually seem really smart,’” she recalled saying to Nate Kibby in a 2018 interview with 20/20.

Kidnapper Nathaniel Kibby

Undated photo of Nathaniel Kibby (Source: New Hampshire Attorney General)

While in the car, 32-year-old Kibby placed handcuffs on Hernandez, as well as a shirt over her head. He also broke her phone, fearing its tracking capabilities. Hernandez says she tried to peek through the car window to discern where she was, but Kibby fired a stun gun at her leg in retaliation.

After a frightening car journey, Kibby parked his truck at his mobile home in Gorham, about 30 miles north of Hernandez’s home. Kidnapped three days before her 15th birthday, Abigail Hernandez would spend the next 9 months as a captive in a small storage shed on Nathaniel Kibby’s property. 

Hernandez Classified as a Missing Person After Disappearance

Zenya Hernandez knew something was wrong when Abby didn’t return from school on October 9. She texted her daughter’s phone, but got no response. Zenya drove to Kennett High School to see if Abby simply lost track of time while talking to her friends after class. She spoke to the school librarian, who saw Abby leave around 2:30pm. Zenya then began to worry that her daughter suffered an injury or some sort of medical emergency while walking home. 

“My thinking was, okay, what if she had an injury, broke her leg, appendicitis, who knows, got hit by a car?” Zenya Hernandez recounted in an interview with 20/20.

She called the local hospital, but Abby wasn’t there either. Around 7pm that evening, Zenya filed a missing persons report with the Conway Police Department. Abby Hernandez’s disappearance hit local television news the following night. 

Abby Hernandez Held Captive in a Shed

After kidnapping and driving the teenage girl to his property in Gorham, Nate Kibby brought Abby Hernandez to a cramped, windowless shed on his property. He covered her eyes with tape, a shirt, and a motorcycle helmet before sexually assaulting her. Hernandez would endure repeated sexual abuse in that shed for more than 9 months until her release. 

Abby Hernandez speaks about the kidnapping in a 2018 interview

Abigail “Abby” Hernandez speaks publicly for the first time about her kidnapping and 9-month-long captivity in a televised interview with 20/20 that aired on September 7, 2018, four years after she returned home. (Source)

Among the myriad of abusive and grotesque treatment that Kibby subjected her to, Hernandez said her kidnapper made her wear a shock collar, the sort of instrument made for dogs to control their barking. 

“I remember he put it on me, and he told me, ‘Okay, try and scream.” Hernandez said. “I just slowly tried to raise my voice and it shocked me, so he’s like ‘Okay, now you know what it feels like.’”

Hernandez says the shed she was trapped in always had a security camera fixed on her. Kibby demanded that she call him “master,” and he cut off her access to sunlight and fresh air. 

As the news of Abby Hernandez’s disappearance spread around town, local media outlets covered the story extensively. Hernandez says that Kibby allowed her to watch news coverage of her own missing person investigation, and she watched her mother plead for her safe return during a press conference with the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office. 

Kibby's shed where he kept Hernandez

The storage shed on Nate Kibby’s property where Abby Hernandez was held in captivity for more than 9 months. (Source)

Both local Conway police and the FBI conducted searches for the teen, and the efforts to find Hernandez became one of the largest missing person investigations in New Hampshire’s history. But these law enforcement efforts uncovered no clues connected to her disappearance. 

Zenya Hernandez Receives a Letter from Her Daughter

About two weeks after Hernandez was kidnapped, Kibby let her write a letter to her mother. Hernandez says she wrote a first draft and used her fingernail to imprint the word, “help,” on the paper. However, Kibby noticed it and viciously assaulted her before she was able to write a new draft. 

The letter Hernandez wrote to her mother was postmarked October 13, 2013, but it did not arrive in her mother’s mailbox until November 6. Zenya Hernandez says she knew immediately that the letter was Abby’s handwriting, but there was something off about it. 

“It’s her, but it’s not her,” Zenya recalled.

Abby Hernandez's letter to Zenya Hernandez

The letter that Abby Hernandez wrote to her mother on October 23, 2013 while she was held captive in Kibby’s shed. (Source)

The letter said nothing of her captivity and the daily abuse she was subjected to. Instead, Abby wrote that she was “staying strong” and that she was “sorry [she] did this.” She told her mother how much she loved her, and apologized for being unable to tell her where she was.

Abby’s mother gave the letter to law enforcement, and it was confirmed that the teen’s DNA was found on the document. But authorities had no way of knowing how Abby Hernandez got that letter out. Did she manage to send the letter without her captor’s knowledge, or did she mail it with his permission? If Hernandez did indeed send the letter without alerting her abuser, then releasing the document to the public could place her in even greater danger. 

Law enforcement decided to hold onto the letter for one month before releasing it to the public. After the news spread, many local residents became furious with Hernandez and her family. They interpreted her letter as a confession that the teenage girl had simply run away and was not a kidnapping victim. Much of the conversation on social media turned against her, and many individuals even demanded that her family pay for the resources that Conway police and the FBI spent to try and find her. 

Zenya Hernandez pleads for Abby's safe return

Zenya Hernandez pleads for Abby’s safe return during a press conference in November 2013. (Source)

But despite the vitriol and anger that the Hernandez family endured from those in their own community, the teenager’s family and friends knew she was not a runaway. They knew she was in grave danger and was likely being held against her will by an unknown kidnapper. The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office and other law enforcement agencies were not fooled, either. They also believed that Abigail Hernandez was indeed alive and likely being held captive.

Kibby Releases Hernandez 9 Months After Kidnapping

With each passing month that Abby Hernandez was held captive in Nate Kibby’s shed, she said she continued to hold onto hope that she would make it out alive. She prayed frequently throughout her captivity. 

“I remember praying to God, and I remember I never said ‘Amen’ in my mind,” she said in a later interview. “I never wanted to end my prayers because I didn’t want God to leave me.”

Missing person poster for Abby

A missing poster for Abby Hernandez that was shared by @MissingCases on Twitter on November 10, 2013. (Source)

As more time passed, Abby Hernandez learned about her captor and sought to gain his trust. With enough persistence, Kibby allowed her to read books he had in possession. She learned his name was Nate Kibby after seeing it scribbled in a cookbook he gave her. Hernandez continually reminded him that he could let her go at any time and she would not share his identity with anyone. 

“Part of how I gained his trust I guess was that I went along with whatever he wanted to do,” Hernandez recounted.

When Kibby later got involved with a counterfeiting operation, he enlisted Hernandez’s help, to which she obliged. But after a sex worker that Kibby paid with counterfeit money attempted to use the bills at a Walmart, local police learned about the illicit operation. The woman warned Kibby that he had better clean up whatever he was “making in [his] basement” because police were going to search his property soon.  

During the evening of July 20, 2014, Nate Kibby released Abby Hernandez on an abandoned road in North Conway, not far from the area where he had kidnapped the teenage girl 9 months earlier. After he drove away, Hernandez says she inhaled the fresh air and could not believe that she was finally free.

“I remember looking up and laughing, just being so happy,” Hernandez said.

The 15-year-old recognized where Kibby had dropped her off – it just a mile from her mother’s house. After 284 days, Abby Hernandez finally walked home.

Footage of Hernandez returning home

Security camera footage of Abby Hernandez walking up to the front porch of her mother’s home in North Conway on July 20, 2014. (Source)

Security camera footage set up by her family in front of the house captured the moment she walked up to the front porch of her house.

“I remember when I came up to my doorstep, I could hear my mom talking on the phone, I could hear her voice,” Hernandez recounted. “I opened the door and I said, ‘Mom?’ I remember she said, ‘Abby?’ And then I remember she ran out and she said ‘Abby!’ And then she ran to me and we just hugged each other for the longest time. I just felt so happy.”

Nate Kibby’s Arrest and Felony Case

One week after Abby Hernandez returned home, Nathaniel Kibby was arrested. He faced a total of 205 charges, and initially pleaded not guilty to all of them. However, he later agreed to plead guilty to seven felony charges, including felonious aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping, witness tampering, and criminal threatening.

Nathaniel Kibby appears in court for sentencing

Nate Kibby appears in court for his arraignment on July 29, 2014 in Conway, NH. (Source)

All other charges were dropped as part of this agreement, which came less than one month before the trial was set to begin. Many legal parties involved with this case, including Jude Larry Smukler, said they believed the agreement was too lenient on Kibby. However, the lead prosecutor of this case, Associate Attorney General Jane Young, said this was the best option for Hernandez because she could avoid having to testify to every horrific, degrading, and traumatizing thing Nate Kibby did to her. 

Court documents show that Kibby was accused of threatening Associate AG Young through a recorded phone call made from the Carroll County House of Corrections, though that charge was eventually dropped. Furthermore, other documents show he threatened to kill Hernandez’s family and dogs if the girl ever identified him.

Nate Kibby pleads guilty in court

Kibby appears in court to plead guilty to 7 felony charges related to his kidnapping and abuse of Abby Hernandez on May 26, 2016. (Source)

Nearly two years after she returned home, 17-year-old Abby Hernandez gave a victim impact statement at Kibby’s sentencing. It reads in part:

“It seems like forever, two years have gone by, both fast and slow in different senses. But I often think about Kibby and what he did affects my life on a day-to-day basis. My name does not mean the same thing anymore that it did before October 9th. I’m attending school, and I’m afraid to let anybody know what my last name is. Nobody knows what my last name is …

“ I did not put you in prison. You put yourself in prison. So I can’t carry that blame on my shoulders when it’s simply not true that I put you in prison. When you decided to point that gun at me, that was not my choice. It was not my choice to go to your house. It was not my choice for you to rape me. It was not my choice for you to threaten me. You did all that yourself … 

“There are certain aspects of my freedom that I can never get back. But in that same aspect, I want you to know that I appreciate my freedom because of you. And that I enjoy and appreciate life because of you. I never look at sunshine in the same way. I never think about fresh air in the same way.”

Abby Hernandez appears in court

Abigail “Abby” Hernandez sits in the courtroom during Nathaniel Kibby’s arraignment in July 2014. Her mother, Zenya Hernandez, sits to her right. (Source)

During the sentencing, Abby’s mother also addressed Kibby in the courtroom.

“I just don’t know – I wish I could hear from you, why?” Zenya Hernandez asked him. “It’s all I think about – can you please tell us why you did it?”

He never gave a reason for why did it while sitting in that courtroom. Nate Kibby was then sentenced to 45 to 90 years in prison, and will likely die while incarcerated.

Abby Hernandez Today

Today, Abby Hernandez lives in Maine with her young son and works as a hairdresser. In February 2022, a Lifetime movie about the true story of her survival called “Girl in the Shed: The Kidnapping of Abby Hernandez” premiered. Hernandez served as executive producer on the film and worked closely with the actress who portrayed her. She said it was very difficult to produce a movie about the worst experiences of her life, but she also found it healing to get her story out on her own terms.

“Obviously, it’s a weird experience to have this happen in the first place. And then to have it made into a movie is obviously like an even weirder experience,” Hernandez said in a 2022 interview with KGET. “But ultimately, I did find it healing in a weird way just to have it out there.”

Shari Rose

Shari Rose

Owner of Blurred Bylines💖💜💙

I created Blurred Bylines in an effort to bring stories from marginalized perspectives into the national conversation. As a former copy editor at the largest newspapers in Arizona and Colorado, I’ve seen first-hand the potential of accurate and accessible information to change minds and affect national policy. 

My stories focus on individuals fighting for justice and their own rights as Americans, survivors of violent crime who rebuilt their lives after tragedy, shifting political trends that seek to strip the LGBTQ+ community and other minority groups of their freedoms, and forgotten figures in U.S. history whose fights for equality persist today.

Through writing these articles, I stumbled upon the power of search engine optimization (SEO) to attract interested audiences to my writing. In addition to the ad-free and paywall-free stories I write at Blurred Bylines, I also perform SEO services for businesses, nonprofits, and fellow freelancers around the country so they can grow their organizations through search engines. 

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