Ashlee Rucker knew she needed out. She told her family how her ex-boyfriend had beaten her repeatedly. But she loved him nearly as much as she feared him.
From Jacksonville, Florida, Rucker's family is sharing her story, hoping it helps save the life of another woman stuck in the very same situation.
It's springtime in Jacksonville, Florida, and sisters Ashlee and Lisa Rucker are outside soaking up the sun when they spot a handsome neighbor across the street. His name is Chad Absher. Right away there was an immediate connection between Chad and Ashlee. And in no time, the two began dating and then moved in together.
But when their one-year anniversary rolled around, Ashlee's family suspects her "Prince Charming" is anything but. The family found out Absher was being abusive toward Ashlee.
At one point, police were called to Chad and Ashlee's home. In the police report, Ashlee claims she recently left Absher, and when she returned to collect her belongings, he pulled a knife on her.
The Jacksonville Sheriff's deputy at the scene wrote: "I observed two lacerations on the victim's throat which would be consistent with a knife blade being held there. I also observed multiple abrasions on different parts of the victim's body (right eye, back, right ankle."
Police can't locate Chad Absher at the time and tell Ashlee Rucker they will do a follow-up patrol.
"She came, she ran to dad enough times, probably 30 times," said Ashlee's father Roger Rucker.
During an 18-month period, cops are called two times to Chad and Ashlee's home for incidents of domestic disturbance, and while the police reports state that officers noticed physical evidence of abuse on Ashlee's body, each time Absher was not arrested. Authorities claim it was because Ashlee refused to write a police statement or press charges.
According to Ashlee's family, during the couple's three-year relationship, Chad Absher's violence towards Ashlee Rucker continued to escalate.
"It's not going to stop. They don't stop. There is no rehabilitation on these guys," said Roger Rucker.
And even though Ashlee, 30, left Absher, 32, on numerous occasions, each time she returned to him.
"I called him every name to try to antagonize him and intimidate him and make him come at me," Roger Rucker tells Crime Watch Daily. "I told him about his sorry self, he's a piece of -- you know the rest -- and he wouldn't approach me."
But Absher didn't seem to care if everyone knew that he beat his girlfriend. In fact, he posted his horrific handiwork all over his Facebook page.
Not only did Ashlee Rucker's ex-boyfriend Chad Absher beat her so badly she had to be hospitalized, he then posted images of her injuries on his Facebook page like a trophy.
Chad Absher reportedly turned his rage toward Ashlee Rucker's family.
"He had said 'I'm killing everybody in this place,'" said Roger Rucker, Ashlee's father.
And Ashlee's sister Lisa begins to believe his threats, Lisa claimed Absher pulled out a gun and held it to her head. Lisa says he eventually calmed down and put the gun away. But when Lisa and Ashlee's father hears about it, he makes yet another plea to his oldest daughter.
"I told her 'As bad as he is beating you, the numerous times he's beating you, the next step, you will be dead,' and I actually said 'As sure as I am sitting in this chair, he's going to shoot you. He's already beat you all he can beat you, and he's going to shoot you,'" Roger Rucker tells Crime Watch Daily.
Ashlee's father has a real reason to fear that Chad Absher could shoot his daughter: Absher had taken aim at a woman before. One police report states Absher showed up at an ex-girlfriend's home in the pre-dawn hours and aimed an assault rifle at her bedroom and fired off several rounds. That time Absher was arrested and convicted on stalking charges. He spent three years behind bars. When he got out of prison and met Ashlee, her family claims he hadn't learned his lesson.
"They're predators. They keep it up. They don't stop. They might stop for a month or two. They go right back to it," said Roger.
And he had a criminal record. Why was there no intervention by law enforcement?
"We say that's a fumble by the police in my mind, because as I look and read about it, you're a convicted felon, you get caught with a firearm, you're going to jail," said Roger.
And police definitely knew Absher had a gun and threatened Ashlee with it. It says so right in a police report. The officer asks "Has your partner ever threatened you with a weapon?" And Ashlee responds "Yes." Then a follow-up question: "If yes, which weapon type?" Ashlee answers "Gun."
That raises the question: Why wasn't Chad Absher ever arrested for carrying a firearm as a convicted felon?
"They dropped the ball, had him with a weapon and he doesn't even get arrested," said Roger Rucker.
Crime Watch Daily reached out to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, and they told us this was a probation issue.
Even though Absher was never arrested, Roger does admit that the cops warned his daughter about the immediate danger.
"Even the police, numerous police told her she's gonna die, and 'Listen to me.' They told her 'Listen to me, you're going to die if you stay around this guy,'" said Roger.
And maybe their warnings were starting to sink in. In the next few weeks, Ashlee musters up the courage to break up with Absher and get her own apartment with her sister Lisa and their children.
"She didn't need that jerk, she was doing fantastic without him," said Roger.
But then, like many victims of domestic violence, Ashlee reconnected with her abuser. Soon after moving into her new apartment, she allows Absher to come over.
At first, Absher appears to be on his best behavior, so Ashlee invites him over once again. It happens to be Halloween 2017.
Little do the sisters know that a real-life scary movie is about to play out -- and they've just let the monster in the front door.
"I knew it was going to happen, I just didn't know when," said Roger.
And on this night, it's a party of four including Chad, Ashlee, Lisa and her friend Lyle. But quickly the festive night takes a dark turn when out of nowhere, Chad Absher starts choking Ashlee Rucker.
Lisa's friend immediately steps in, and fists start flying. This time, Absher is on the losing end of the punches. But even with his ego and body badly bruised, he refuses to leave.
So Lisa calls 911.
Chad Absher in background: "Get off the phone with the cops."
Lisa Rucker: "No. There is an altercation. I'm asking someone to leave and they will not get out of my apartment."
Dispatcher: "OK. Who is that? Your boyfriend? Your brother?"
Lisa: "No. It's my sister's boyfriend."
Dispatcher: "Does anyone have any weapons? Are drinking or drugs involved?"
Dispatcher: "All right. We will send the next available officer out there. Call us back if anything changes, OK?"
Lisa: "OK, thank you."
But after hanging up with the 911 operator, Lisa found out there actually was a gun in the apartment. Earlier that evening, Ashlee hid Absher's rifle behind a love seat after he started acting angry and erratic.
Lisa's friend Lyle had just stepped outside after the fight, thinking the danger was over. But instead, it's a countdown to tragedy.
"My sister is saying 'He's got a gun, he's got a gun,'" Lisa Rucker tells Crime Watch Daily. "When I saw him pull out the gun I was thinking in my head, 'He's not really gonna shoot me,' and then in a split-second, that's all it took."
Chad Absher opens fire, hitting both of the girls in the back of the head.
"It was like I was inside my own head and I'm thinking 'I'm dying, he just shot me,'" said Lisa. "I could barely breathe because I was choking on my own blood."
It took 21 agonizing minutes for police to arrive because Lisa had mistakenly told the 911 operator there was no gun in the apartment. Cops walk into a massacre. The two sisters are lying motionless in pools of their own blood.
Their father is fast asleep a few miles away when the dreaded phone call comes in.
"I don't remember if it was 3 or 4 in the morning, and I said 'Who the hell is that?' You really think you're in a bad dream, but you're not. You know that it's real. My older daughter Ashlee had been shot in the head. Lisa, she was shot in the head also."
Tragically paramedics pronounce Ashlee dead at the scene, but Lisa, miraculously is somehow alive.
"I blacked out again, and when I came to the second time, my nephew and my son are running back and forth between me and my sister," said Lisa Rucker.
It's a heartbreaking scene: Ashlee and Lisa's 4- and 8-year-old boys witness their own mothers being gunned down.
"And they're like 'Please don't die, please don't die,' and I told my son 'I'm OK, Mommy's OK,' but the whole time in the back of my head I'm saying 'I'm dying, he's witnessing me dying,'" said Lisa.
Then Lisa recalls Chad Absher's chilling threat to kill her family.
"He's gonna kill my son, you know, then I start panicking, 'He's gonna kill the kids,'" said Lisa.
But little does she know that Chad Absher has already left the scene.
Lisa is rushed to the emergency room and her father is right there by her side.
"Got to the emergency room and she was still alive and it was the relief of a lifetime, but you're not out of the woods," said Roger.
Lisa literally dodged a fatal bullet. It ricocheted off her skull, broke her jaw and then came out the left side of her face.
How close did he put the gun to the back of your head when he pulled the trigger?
"I would say 8 to 10 foot away. Thankfully his aim was a little off and he didn't kill me," said Lisa.
Not only does Lisa live, within a month of the shooting she's walking and talking. She's still in therapy, but fighting her way to a full recovery.
And Lisa's courage is on full display when she relives the night from hell.
"I saw out of the corner of my eye, he pulls the gun from behind a love seat, and he pointed it at me and said, 'So that's how it is, Lisa?' And I didn't even have time to respond," said Lisa. "I mean, what kind of man shoots two girls in the back of their head?"
She's a miracle, and Chad Absher's worst nightmare.
"I'm a victim witness," said Lisa.
Lisa Rucker will testify in court against the man who shot and killed her sister and tried to kill her.
"He could have potentially killed us both, and I think fully at the time, he thought he did," said Lisa. "I'm literally bleeding out, I've got tons of blood around me, he probably thought, you know, 'She's dead.' Because I was unconscious."
After a two-day manhunt, Chad Absher was captured and charged with murder, attempted murder, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. A pre-trial hearing is set for February 1, 2018.
Chad's father maintains his son is innocent, claiming Chad says the sisters attacked him, and he was defending himself.
"Right now there is two families that's really been tore apart," Chad's father William Absher told reporters. "And God's just got to be with us, that's all I can say at this point in time."
Chad Absher has pleaded not guilty. But even if he is convicted, it doesn't change the fact that Ashlee is gone and her sister will never be the same.
"All the wounds will close. But mentally I can't understand any of it. I don't know why and I'll never know that why," said Lisa Rucker.
What do you say to other women out there who may be in abusive relationships?
"It doesn't get better," said Lisa. "It only gets worse."