Cape woman shoots, kills rapist in her home Saturday, November 1, 2008 By Bridget DiCosmo Southeast Missourian http://www.semissourian.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081101/NEWS01/711019994/-1/news01 Before shooting and killing her rapist early Friday morning, a Cape Girardeau woman had never fired a shotgun in her life. Though the woman, whose name has been withheld, lived alone, she'd always felt safe in her neighborhood, where she'd lived for the past four years. When Ronnie W. Preyer, a registered sex offender who was about to be charged with assaulting her a week earlier, broke into her home shortly after 2 a.m. Friday, she said a calm settled over her as she shot him in the chest before running to a neighbor's to get help. Preyer, 47, of Cape Girardeau was pronounced dead a few hours later at Saint Francis Medical Center. A dark bruise still marring the side of her face, the rape victim described the previous assault. She had been watching TV around midnight Oct. 25 when she heard a crash. She knew her basement door, leading up to her kitchen, was unlocked, and the noise had come from the basement. Realizing an intruder had broken into the house, she made a beeline for the back door, but Preyer was waiting for her. "You fight, you try to think of all the things you can do, but it's happening so fast," she said. Though she did put up a fight, Preyer punched her — twice, she thinks. At first, she couldn't believe it was really happening and feared someone was playing a horrible joke. He told her "Don't tell anybody. I know where you live," she said. The woman sat quietly for several hours before deciding she needed to notify the police. "I wasn't going to tell, but the more I thought about it, the worse I felt," she said. Landlord bought gun She told her daughter and her landlord what happened, and her landlord repaired the window, added security devices to all the doors and, in a gesture that may have saved her life, purchased a shotgun for her. "I've never shot a shotgun before," she said. Her landlord instructed her on how to load the firearm, and she kept it near her for a week. Meanwhile, Cape Girardeau police began investigating the rape and made frequent rounds past her residence to check on things. On Friday morning, about two hours after an officer had checked on her, she was still awake. "You can't sleep. You can't do anything. You're just listening," she said. When the lights went out, her first thought was that she remembered having paid her electric bill. "I knew something wasn't right," she said. She got her gun. Growing nervous, she opened the blinds, sat down in a chair and waited. She's sure she must have prayed. When she heard a pop from behind the basement door, she knew. Standing several feet away in the tiny kitchen, she held up the gun as Preyer crashed through the door into the room. She fired. Though people warned her the firearm would kick quite a bit the first few times she fired it, she said she didn't feel a thing. "I just saw some sparks come out of the gun," she said. Preyer fell, and she fled to a neighbor's, using the door farthest away from him to make her escape. She screamed for help, her neighbor took the gun from her and they called the police, she said. "That was my moment of hysteria," she said. Police arrived in less than a minute, for which she was grateful. They told her she'd done the right thing, that they believed he may have intended to kill her, she said. "It makes you feel sick almost, to think someone would want to kill you," she said. The woman went to the police station and identified Preyer, who had been transported to the hospital, as the man who raped her Oct. 25 and the man who broke into her home Friday. About to be charged Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle was in the process of charging Preyer with attempted rape, rape, burglary and attempted burglary when he learned Preyer died at the hospital, around 9:30 a.m. "It is clear that under Missouri's self-defense law the woman was justified in using deadly force upon the intruder in her home because he was in the process of burglarizing her home when she shot him," Swingle wrote in a letter to police chief Carl Kinnison. The woman said she keeps seeing the image of Preyer crashing through her basement door. "I'm glad I had something to protect me. When your life is in danger, you just do what you have to, you don't think," she said. "It's you or them." Preyer's criminal history is speckled with home invasions and assaults, and he was convicted of failing to inform the county of his change of address in compliance with registered sex offender laws. Preyer was convicted in 1989 of raping and robbing a woman in New Madrid County. He served 15 years in prison on both charges. December case He was also arrested last December and charged with attempted rape and second-degree felony assault. Swingle said his office dismissed the rape charge because he did not think he could get a conviction. Preyer was convicted on the assault charge and served 128 days in jail. The victim in that case, a woman in her early 30s who knew of his sex offender status, allegedly went for a drive with Preyer. He attacked her while in the car. She fought back, and he began punching her in the head and face, she told Jackson police. After talking with the victim in that case, Swingle decided to dismiss the charges because the woman did not use a nearby phone to call for help and because she went with Preyer "for something to do," even though he was a sex offender, he said. She also admitted to drinking a 12-pack of Budweiser prior to the assault, Swingle said. "We know in at least one case, he did a good job of picking his victim. This time, he didn't do such a good job," Swingle said.