By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
By New Times
Hillya's life in Phoenix revolved around her language skills as she taught Spanish to the public defenders, the county attorney and a number of silk-stocking law firms downtown. She was also a part-time instructor in the junior college system.
Her world of books and comforters was ripped apart on September 19, 1990, at approximately 10:30 p.m.
"I had just finished teaching my late-night Spanish class at Rio Salado Community College," said Hillya. "I had the TV tuned to one of the religious shows and I fell asleep on the loveseat in my house clothes.
"I woke up with this man choking me and screaming like some kind of beast. He was using Spanish words like 'se¤orita' and I'm frantically thinking, 'Which student did I give a bad grade to? Who is this person?' My mind was just racing.
"I felt light as a toothpick and was being flung side to side. I could hear a police helicopter hovering over my roof, which was very strange."
She learned later that the police presence was not a coincidence.
Sidney Timberlake had just raped an elderly neighbor of Mooney's and fractured the victim's skull during the attack. The old woman dialed 911 as Timberlake fled through nearby backyards and into Hillya's residence.
"He's speaking in broken Spanish, telling me 'Keep quiet. I'll kill you if you don't keep quiet.'
"I wrestled with him. He had on gloves, and he kept trying to cover my face and eyes. I was worried he'd gouge an eye out. I kept trying to keep him off me with my feet. That's when he pulled out a screwdriver from his boot and slashed my throat."
Though the wound was superficial, it intensified Hillya's sense of peril.
"I was praying silently," recalled Hillya. "Nothing happened. There was no answer from God, which startled me."
Timberlake continued to be aggressive.
"He took off his gloves to lift my housedress, and I kept pulling my dress down," said Hillya. "He asked me, 'Why do you keep doing that?' and I answered him, 'That's what ladies do.'"
Timberlake managed to complete the rape. Hillya stepped back and viewed the assault almost as an outsider. This survival technique gives her story a certain arm's-length quality in the retelling.
"Then I started praying out loud over him and he got off of me. I said the name of Jesus to this man and I told him, 'You will be all right.'
"This is going to sound weird. Maybe this is a trauma thing. I believe I saw Jesus standing in the air.
"Sidney sat on the floor, smoking a cigarette. I saw Jesus' lips moving, but I couldn't hear what Jesus said. It was because Jesus was talking to Sidney."
By the time he crashed into Mooney's home, Timberlake was linked to nearly a dozen rapes. The precise number remains unclear because the police suspect that some of his elderly victims never reported the assault.
With Hillya he confronted a woman who was trying to forgive him before their racing hearts had stopped pounding.
"This person was clearly frightened to death," recalled Hillya.
"I said to him, 'Obviously, you do not know Jesus.'"
Timberlake responded that he did not believe in God.
"'Everyone feels like that at sometime,' I said. 'Things happen that don't seem right, but there are great things that happen too, out of the blue, that you don't cause to happen.'
"I talked to him about different things in my life that I thought were angelic intervention."
Hillya even joked with Timberlake.
"I talked to him about moving into the house two or three months earlier and how there were still a lot of things that needed fixing. I needed a handyman, but all you brought was a single screwdriver."
Though she'd been raped, Hillya Mooney refused to be dominated. She asserted control, after her fashion. She insisted that Timberlake recognize his own humanity and hers as well.
"Even though he was choking me, he was clearly terrified. Just absolutely frantic. The thing that impressed me was the drastic change in his behavior from being this wild animal into this very quiet person. I told him God was still working for him, doing things for him."
After several hours, Sidney drifted into a stupor. When he nodded off, Hillya fled to a neighbor's home and called the police, who arrived to find the rapist gone.
Rushed to the same hospital where Timberlake's first victim from that night's sexual assaults was being treated, Hillya found herself part of an investigation.
Hillya speaks today with admiration for the work of the Phoenix Police Department, particularly Detective Marco Ling, but she also shudders at the memory of the questions.
"The very night of the rape they needed to know every detail: the number of men in my life; the number of men who'd been in my home; if they fingerprinted the whole house, how many prints of men would they find?
"They wanted to know his romantic style. They wanted to know if he was the kind of person that fondled you.