BRIGHTON PARK — The doorbell wouldn't stop ringing.
When someone finally answered the door, they saw the 8-year-old girl crying. She was missing a shoe and didn't have her backpack.
"He took my mom! He took my mom!" she yelled.
Jesse, the girl's father, was on the second floor of their Brighton Park home when he heard his daughter's message. Jesse, who asked his family's last name not be used, ran outside with his brother and uncle. They told the 8-year-old to lead the way.
She lead them to an alley behind a church a half block from their home. Jesse heard a scream. He looked around and saw an unlocked door leading into the basement of an apartment building. He ran inside and saw a man attacking his wife.
"He was on top of my wife, and he was choking her," Jesse said. "She wasn't moving anymore, and she was unconscious on the floor."
Jesse charged the man and, with the help of his uncle, was able to subdue the attacker until police arrived.
Later, the attacker told police he had seen how happy the woman and her daughter were, "and it made him angry," prosecutors said.
On Wednesday, 25-year-old Jessie White appeared in bond court, charged with attempted murder and multiple counts of battery in the attack.
White was sitting on the steps of St. Pancratius Church in the 2900 block of West 40th Place Tuesday afternoon when he saw the mother, Ana, and her 8-year-old daughter pass by, prosecutors said.
About 3 p.m., the mother had picked up her daughter from school. The two were talking about puppies on their walk home, family said.
White attacked the mother, putting a knife to her throat, and pushed the 8-year-old to the ground, prosecutors said. The mother yelled for her daughter to run and managed to pull the blade off the knife as she struggled against White, family and prosecutors said.
White tried to stab the 25-year-old woman but instead hit her repeatedly with the knife's handle. He then dragged her into the basement of the nearby apartment building, prosecutors said. White knew the basement was unlocked because he had used it to relieve himself earlier, prosecutors said.
White climbed on top of her, hit her and then began strangling her.
"I'm going to kill you. I have to kill you," he shouted, according to a police report.
But Jesse, 25, and his uncle arrived in time to stop White. As they held him and waited for police to arrive, they said White pleaded with them to let him go.
"He kept saying, 'All I wanted to do was kill her,' " Jesse said. "He was speaking in a normal voice ... you know, like if you said, 'I just want to eat ice cream today.' "
Police eventually arrived and arrested White. As they put him inside a squad car, Jesse realized he knew his wife's alleged attacker. All three of them went to Kelly High School.
Jesse and his wife never had classes or talked to White, he said, but he recognized White's long blonde hair. People who lived at White's address declined comment. Other attempts to contact family were unsuccessful, but the 25-year-old's Facebook page stated he attended Kelly.
White, a business management student at DeVry, was ordered held without bail.
Sitting inside his home Wednesday, Jesse was baffled when he heard what White told police about why he attacked his wife and daughter, and Jesse's uncle, David, laughed incredulously.
"It's not a reason," the 46-year-old said. "I can take a knife and kill you because you're happy? It's ridiculous."
The two men's fists remained swollen from Tuesday. Jesse said his wife, Ana, is doing well but still recovering. She was treated and released from Holy Cross Hospital Tuesday evening, but the event was "traumatizing" for everyone, he said.
"I'm not scared for my life. I'm not, but I'm scared for my family," he said, adding he wants to see White "stay in jail" because he believes he is a "threat."
His 8-year-old daughter is also recovering from what happened, but family members said they thought the girl would be fine. They say she is a hero.
"I think she's the real hero here," Jesse said. "That's what I told her, you're the hero in this because you're the one that saved your mom."
Jesse's 20-year-old brother, David, agreed.
"Me, at my age, when I saw that I froze," he said of seeing his brother's wife on the ground bleeding. "And an 8-year-old, she did a heroic deed compared to me."
David said his niece proved just how strong she is.
"It's amazing how a child, you know, a child saved a life."
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