Iron County assault victim shares story of survival, message for young women

18-year-old Aurora Dahl was out for a run on Aug. 1 when she said she was attacked by Caleb Anderson
Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 3:00 PM EDT
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GAASTRA, Mich. (WLUC) - The young woman attacked while running in Iron County on Aug. 1 is sharing her experience of survival.

“He told me if you throw away your phone, I’ll let you live,” said Aurora Dahl.

That was one threat 18-year-old Aurora Dahl said she heard from Caleb Anderson the morning of Aug. 1. At 6 o’clock, Dahl was out for a run on Bates-Gaastra Road, a route near home she has run for two years.

“Further down my run, probably a mile into it, I heard footsteps behind me,” Dahl explained. “I turned around and he was right there, running towards me... he looked at me and said, ‘I’m doing a social experiment, I’m doing a social experiment.’ In his hands he was holding duct tape and what looked like a mace. I didn’t know for sure.”

Dahl did not fall for the ruse, and she said Anderson attacked her.

“He was trying to throw me to the ground, and I was resisting it,” Dahl said. “Somehow, he ended up behind me trying to choke me. My dad always taught me if someone is behind you trying to choke you, kick your feet out from under you because they won’t be expecting the sudden change of movement and weight.”

Aurora Dahl was assaulted while running in Gaastra on Aug. 1, 2022.

Dahl said the physical assault continued for 10 minutes, she was hit in the face and bleeding.

“There was one time when he was on top of me with his hands around my throat and I hip thrust him off me,” Dahl explained, demonstrating with her hands.

At one point, Dahl was able to roll off Anderson in a ditch, where she ran away and began yelling at him to leave her alone.

“He was in the ditch on both knees, panting, because he was exhausted. I just keep yelling at him,” Dahl said.

What Anderson said next confused Dahl.

“He kept trying to make conversation with me. It was really weird. He mentioned to me that I was bleeding. I said obviously, you punched me,” Dahl said.

After she escaped, Dahl ran home and called the police. She said within 10 minutes, Trooper Warren Webster from the Michigan State Police was at her house and called for extra resources.

“He immediately started calling in other assets like our forensic sketch artist and our post detective,” said Lt. Jeremy Hauswirth, MSP Iron Mountain Post Commander.

Hauswirth said Dahl’s recollection of the assault was critical in developing a sketch and identifying Anderson.

“To have an eyewitness that survives an attack like this is critical,” Hauswirth explained. “Her presence of mind was incredible. She provided specific details that we would have no other way of getting and we were able to put a timeline together and vehicle description that put us way ahead of the game.”

After a sketch of the assailant was created the same day of the assault, the Michigan State Police contacted the U.S. Marshals Service to coordinate communication between neighboring states.

Dahl said she did not know Anderson personally, but once she saw a photo of him, memories rushed back.

“When I looked at his face, he looked familiar to me when I turned around and saw him running towards me,” Dahl explained. “Later I found out that he used to ride my bus when I was little.”

In the days following the assault, Anderson’s location was unknown. Dahl was afraid Anderson would come back for her.

“I used to sleep with the lights on for probably two nights straight after it happened because I didn’t know where he was, nobody knew where he was,” Dahl said. “When I found out he was apprehended, I felt safe and like there was a weight off my shoulders.”

Later that week, she learned about Anderson’s connection to homicides in Green Bay and Alabama.

“I was the only person that was lucky with an encounter with him. I made it out,” Dahl said. The 18-year-old said her life has changed forever.

“No, I don’t think I ever will [run the same path again]. I will never go running alone ever again,” Dahl said.

Dahl said the assault still impacts her.

“I am still jumpy to go alone anywhere,” Dahl said. “Even walking from one point to another in a large crowd, it sketches me out. I was at the demolition derby in Iron River and [kids were running] and I could hear their footsteps behind me. I get really scared when I hear that sort of stuff. I am still in shock. Sometimes I get sad that the situation happened to me. I am glad it was me instead of someone who couldn’t get away.”

Dahl wants to share her experience to empower other young women.

“We can fight back in any situation they deem necessary to fight back. We are not inadequate,” Dahl said.

She recommends everyone should take advantage of the buddy system to prevent being alone.

“If you don’t have someone to run with or exercise with, have some sort of protection like pepper spray,” Dahl said.

Hauswirth said Dahl’s awareness and tenacity saved her life.

“Have a strong presence of mind and be willing to fight,” Hauswirth said. “You don’t have to be just a victim; you can fight back. I am vastly impressed with Aurora and her presence of mind. She is an incredible human.”

Hauswirth gifted Dahl an MSP patch for her bravery and assistance in apprehending Anderson. Dahl said she went running for the first time after the assault on Thursday with the company of her mom. Anderson remains in an Alabama jail.

Anderson has been moved to a different Alabama county jail. The 23-year-old is charged with murder and first-degree burglary in Escambia County, Alabama. He was previously being held in Shelby County, where he was arrested.

Anderson will have to go in front of a grand jury to decide if there is enough evidence against him in Alabama. The grand jury won’t meet again until Oct. 24-28. After that, his next court appearance would be on November 17. He is currently in jail with no bond.

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