Man who raped, intentionally blinded Akron woman is now seeking parole

Family hopes her story will prompt people to write to the parole board.

Man who raped, intentionally blinded Akron woman is now seeking parole

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - “It seems like every change in the law, it favors the felon. It doesn’t favor the victim. The victim’s are the ones that have to pay over and over and over,” Phyllis Cottle said during her interview with 19 News in 2009.

It has been 10 years since she led the last effort to keep her attacker, Samuel Herring, behind bars.

She is gone now, Cottle was a woman who loved to garden who did stop and smell the flowers because she couldn’t see.

“She’d be like, ‘Walk with your eyes shut,’ and you would realize how hard it was just tripping over a sidewalk and then she’d be like, ‘Don’t focus on that part.’ She’d be like, ‘Listen to the birds.’ She’s like, 'I can’t see with my eyes, but I hear so much better now,” said her granddaughter, Drew Vollmer, who says she learned much from Cottle.

Man who intentionally blinded his rape victim is seeking parole

Cottle was going to her car on West Exchange in Akron, in a parking lot near where she worked.

Herring approached her with a knife. She honked the horn and screamed, but no one helped. Bystanders thought it was a domestic situation.

He pushed her into the passenger seat and took off, later raping her, blinding her, tying her up, and setting her car on fire.

At the Akron Library, researchers helped 19 News find Beacon Journal articles about the crime. Before being blinded, Phyllis focused on her attacker and gave details that led to a sketch and ultimately helped lead police to Herring.

Vollmer says her grandmother never saw her as she was born after the attack. She displayed pictures of her grandmother dancing and, as was the case, with her garden staying busy, including advocacy for the blind.

“She did not like using a cane, nothing. So, she just really wanted to keep her independence and I think that’s part of what kept her so strong,” a Facebook page, Justice for Phyllis, keeps her voice strong today.

“That’s our main goal, to get letters and emails and faxes. Whatever you can do, just do it," Vollmer says.

It is where your voice can replace her voice at the parole board. The page includes a link for anyone who wants to speak to the board.

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