Surfer via OKCupid wanted to meet in Carlsbad motel parking lot

The photographer brought zip-ties and duct tape

 Matthew Nathan Terrell pleaded not guilty to false imprisonment and assault with intent to rape.
  • Matthew Nathan Terrell pleaded not guilty to false imprisonment and assault with intent to rape.

Emily said she didn’t think anything was strange until she noticed that the man had a plastic zip-tie in his hands. The 21-year-old was glad for the chance to make 50 bucks an hour just to be interviewed as part of what she was told was a “media blog campaign” for Nike. She was in her last year of college and needed the money.

The man told Emily that she and the other women would be interviewed on a beach in San Diego County called Terramar Point, a popular surf spot in Carlsbad. Emily is a surfer, and she knows the place. She agreed to a 15-minute interview while wearing running apparel such as shoes and shorts.

From a distance Emily looks tiny and delicate. Up close one can see how fit she is, but still tiny. Emily said she weighs 95 pounds and “I’m five foot. I wish I was five foot one.” She is pretty and soft-spoken and gives the impression of modesty.

The man named Nathan sent the job offer to Emily through a website called OKCupid. Emily said she joined that dating website in February 2013 to meet people and make new friends.

When Emily first saw the generic looking advertisement she was skeptical it might be a scam. She made it clear in her response that she would not be part of any butt-shaking-in-front-of-the-camera spectacle. Nathan reassured her that he was professional, and he talked a lot about the paperwork that Emily would be required to sign to participate in Nike’s “media blog campaign.”

Before she arrived on Sunday morning, June 9, their meeting location was suddenly changed. Nathan explained to Emily that he needed to “clean up” after he surfed that morning. He was a surfer, too, he said. Nike, he falsely claimed, had provided him with accommodations at a motel in Carlsbad, so would it be possible for Emily to meet him in the parking lot there? “It rang one alarm bell for me,” Emily said, later.

But she went anyway.

Carlsbad police detective Jeff Smith said he noticed a bite mark on the right side of Terrell’s neck.

Carlsbad police detective Jeff Smith said he noticed a bite mark on the right side of Terrell’s neck.

Nathan met her in the parking lot and said he had a selection of running shorts for Emily to choose from. So she followed him back to his hotel room. In the room Emily saw some shorts laid out on the bed, and there was a backpack on the dresser next to a television. “We looked at the shorts.” Emily chose a pair of shorts and “he directed me to the bathroom and I changed in there.” Nathan suggested she should do some stretching exercises, to warm up. He had a small camera and he took perhaps seven pictures of Emily while she did a “quad stretch,” she remembered.

Then Nathan suggested she should do a certain pose that he said a certain tennis star always does for Nike. Emily plays tennis. When she asked the name of that tennis star, she did not recognize the name. Nathan explained that the tennis player was not officially ranked yet.

Nathan knew the pose he wanted, and he directed Emily to face the window (the curtains were drawn) and put both her arms behind her back and grab her elbows. He specifically directed her to look at the window, which Emily thought was odd because when he first proposed that pose he said the tennis player looked back over her shoulder. Emily glanced into a mirror at one side and could see that Nathan had a plastic strip in one hand. When he took hold of her to pose her arms just so, Emily said, he zip-tied her arms together; then he grabbed her by the shoulders and threw her onto the bed.

“I was in shock,” Emily said. “I couldn’t believe this was actually happening. He put me on my back, on the bed. He was totally silent. He had gotten very systematic, like, methodical.” Emily said the man was pressing down on her and trying to immobilize her. “I struggled to keep myself face up.”

She said the six-foot, 170-pound Nathan “towered over” her.

When he came close, she bit the side of his neck as hard as she could. He yelled “Ow!” and backed off, she remembered. Emily quickly slid off the bed onto the floor and began to scream. “He put a hand over my face, trying to muffle the screams, and I bit that hand.”

In a burst of panic and adrenaline, Emily pulled out of the zip-tie. The effort slashed both her hands. With one of her freed hands, the desperate woman reached to “crush his testicles,” but she said the man didn’t react so she thought she must have “missed.”

Emily screamed louder and louder. She demanded that he open the door.

Emily said in these moments that Nathan was telling her “this was his first time” and that he was going to let her go, and to please not yell. “I wasn’t sure how to interpret that,” she said in court.

She continued to yell and call for help, hoping someone would come. Finally Nathan slid back the deadbolt on the door and he stepped aside. Emily ran from the room and saw two men and a cleaning woman outside, in the courtyard of the motel. One man was on his cell phone.

The first officer to arrive found a used zip-tie, in a closed loop, lying on the floor between the bed and the door of the motel room.

Carlsbad police detective Jeff Smith said they found duct tape and scissors and zip-ties in a backpack on the dresser in the room. Underneath the bed they found a “ball gag” constructed from a large zip-tie and bunched-up duct tape, according to the detective.

Detective Smith interviewed 27-year-old Matthew Nathan Terrell that evening. “I noticed a mark on the right side of his neck,” the detective recalled. “To me, it appeared to be a bite mark.”

The suspect told police that he liked to “look at bondage.” He said that he never intended to hurt or frighten or rape the woman.

Emily told police that she “feared death” and felt that the man “was trying to immobilize me” and make her “totally vulnerable.”

Terrell, who was arrested the same day of the incident, was charged with false imprisonment and assault with intent to commit rape. He pleaded not-guilty to all charges.

Two weeks after his arrest, Terrell paid a fee of $3500 to post a $50,000 bond and he has been at liberty since. He will next appear in San Diego’s North County Superior Court on November 4, 2013.

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Trial began today for Matthew Nathan Terrell. A jury of 6 men and 6 women is hearing evidence in San Diego's North County Superior Courthouse. The alleged victim, Emily, will continue her testimony from the witness box after the lunch break today, December 16, 2013. The jury might get the case to deliberate by the end of this week.

After deliberating less than 3 hours, the jury unanimously declared Terrell guilty of both charges: assault with intent to commit rape and false imprisonment. Honorable Judge Sim von Kalinowski immediately ordered Terrell to be taken into custody, and the felon is now held without bail until his sentencing in February 2014. Testimony and presentation of evidence during trial lasted a little more than one day, with a surprise move by defense to present no evidence at all. Matthew Nathan Terrell chose not to take the witness box in his own defense. Victim Emily was in the witness box less than two hours, she was mostly composed during her devastating testimony.

"This was a serious case in which the victim was extremely brave," prosecutor Laurie Hauf commented after the jury verdict was declared, the morning of December 18, 2013. "The jury was very diligent in coming to their decision." It took more hours to select the jury for this case, than hours spent presenting evidence to the jury. Now convicted of assault with intent to commit rape, Matthew Nathan Terrell is scheduled to be sentenced the morning of February 7, 2014, by the Honorable Judge Sim von Kalinowski.

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