News4 Investigates: Survivor of interstate kidnapping details how she escaped

News4 talks to one woman who survived her kidnapping.
Published: May. 25, 2022 at 7:10 PM CDT

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - On May 21, 2019, Abbey Pimentel was already in trouble before she was in danger.

“My car battery was dead, my phone was dead, everything was dead. There’s tons of traffic, you’re just sitting there like a sitting duck,” Pimentel told News4 Investigates.

In her first interview since her kidnapping on Interstate 24, Pimentel said she had run out of gas at the Kentucky/Tennessee border when a semi-truck did a U-turn in her direction.

“Eventually Roy Nellsch did pull up behind me. Asked me if I needed help and I said, ‘Yeah, I do.’ I was at the point where I did feel desperate,” Pimentel said.

Photos shows Pimentel's car broken down by the side of the interstate(Clarksville Police Department evidence)

Pimentel said her desperation quickly turned to fear when she said the man behind the wheel did not get off at the next exit.

She said she asked him to pull over.

“I grab my purse, I look up at him, and I’m thinking I’m about to say thank you, and he has a gun pointed at me,” Pimentel said. “He said, this is a kidnapping, I’m going to rape you, get in the back of the truck.”

What Pimentel did not know at the time, is what investigators would later find inside Nellsch’s truck.

News4 Investigates obtained evidence photographs that showed a bag of bloody women’s undergarments, knives, guns, a stun gun and a bloody rope.

As she made her way to the bed in the back of the cab, Pimentel said vowed to herself that she wouldn’t go quietly.

“I already know that I’m probably going to die, I’m not going down without a fight,” Pimentel said.

In a later police interrogation, Nellsch claimed that Pimentel threatened to rob him, saying that if he didn’t give her money, she would claim that he raped her.

In the interrogation, Nellsch described what happened next.

“Bitch, she come unwound. He started hitting me and beating and I jumped back,” Nellsch said.

Pimentel disputes Nellsch’s claims, saying she started to fight to save her life.

“We’re wrestling for this gun. He’s on top of me. And I have the gun pointed at his face now. I’m on the bottom and he’s on the top, and I have the gun pointed as his face and I pull the trigger and nothing happened,” Pimentel said.

It is unclear why the gun did fire, but it ultimately wouldn’t matter.

Nellsch would later tell police that he had another gun in the truck.

“Whenever she grabbed the 25 (pistol), turned around on me, I reached out and grabbed the 40 Pistol) and hit her in the head with it,” Nellsch said.

“He just bashed me over the head with it,” Pimentel told News4 Investigates. “Really hard. I remember feeling warm liquid down my face. It was blood.”

Pimentel said the next thing she knew, Nellsch was handcuffing her.

“He put handcuffs behind my back, and I remember thinking, ‘OK, Abbey, just comply with what he says or pretend you’re compliant, because that’s when you’re going to make your move. You’re gonna, you’re gonna do something. You’re not going to go down,’” Pimental said.

She said Nellsch placed a blanket over her and used a paper towel on her wound.

Evidence photo shows bloody paper towel discovered in Nellsch's truck(Clarksville Police Department evidence)

“While he was wiping the blood away from my face, I asked him three questions. I said, are you going to kill me? He said no, I’m just going to rape you,” Pimentel said.

She said when she asked how many days he was going to keep her, she replied that it would be a few.

“I said, are you taking me somewhere scary? And that’s all I could think to ask, and I kept thinking about those scary movies, that’s he’s going to have me in some cage and torturing me. He said, no, I’m going to keep you in my truck with me, I’m taking you somewhere isolated,” Pimentel said.

Evidence photograph shows one of the guns found in Nellsch's truck(Clarksville Police Department evidence)

Lying handcuffed on the bed, Pimentel said Nellsch lifted up her dress and then once again began driving.

A mother of two, she said she pictured the faces of her children.

“I would think about my kids, and every time, I would think about my kids names going through my head. I would get this adrenaline, this crazy amount of adrenaline going through my body and thought, you don’t have the right to take away their mommy,” she said.

Once a solder herself at Fort Campbell, Pimentel said she got ready for battle.

Abbey Pimentel as soldier at Fort Campbell(Abbey Pimentel (submitted))

“First I had to get my hand out of this handcuff,” she said. “Honestly, I didn’t care if I ripped my whole arm off. I was not going with that guy. I was not going to be raped by him. There’s no way.”

“So how did you do it? How did you get your hand out?” asked News4 Investigates.

“I ripped it out as hard as I could. Hard as I possibly could. It hurt, but I didn’t care,” Pimentel said.

Handcuffs discovered in Nellsch's truck(Clarksville Police Department evidence)

Pimentel said once she got one hand free, she made a desperate decision: to throw the blanket over Nellsch’s head as he was driving on the interstate.

“I was absolutely a crazy savage animal, fighting for my life,” Pimentel said. “It taught me I will do anything to survive.”

Pimentel said her goal was to get the attention of other drivers, even if it meant crashing.

“And I took the blanket and I just lunged towards him as fast as I could and threw the blanket over his head, and I put my arm around his neck and I squeezed my muscles around his neck. I grabbed the steering wheel with my other hand, and I started swirling around, like trying to tip the truck over,” she said.

She said Nellsch agreed to let her go if she stopped.

To her surprise, he offered to unlock the remaining handcuff.

When interrogated by police, Nellsch admitted he wanted to keep the handcuff that he said he used as a defensive weapon.

Once free, Pimentel said she did not hesitate to run.

“I remember I jumped out of the semi. I remember I had one shoe on, one shoe off. Half a dress on,” Pimentel said.

Pimentel said she also remembers the last thing Nellsch said to her.

“He said, ‘I never expected you to fight that much. I’ve never had anyone fight this much before,” she said. “I was like, whoa, he’s done this before. I thought, wow, who am I dealing with here?”

Pimentel said she began to run down the interstate and eventually flagged down help, later giving descriptions to police of the truck.

Later, she said detectives told her about what they found in the truck.

“The boat rope with the blood on it. I was like, ugh, what on earth was he going to do to me? That’s a question that constantly goes through my mind. How was I going to die that day?” Pimentel said.

“Do you sometimes think about who else has been in that cab with him?” asked News4 Investigates.

“Absolutely. All the time. All the time. And I wonder. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wonder and think about that,” Pimentel said.

After Nellsch was indicted on kidnapping, possession of child pornography and transportation of child pornography charges and pleaded not guilty, Pimentel said she waited for the day when the trial would begin.

Then, she got a phone call.

On March 10, Nellsch died of acute lymphomic leukemia while in prison.

“I was upset,” she said. “I didn’t want him to die yet. I wanted to do the trial first. I wanted him to be exposed. I wanted him to face the world for what he’d done. I wanted to know more about what’s he done,” Pimentel said.

Now living in Florida near her children, Pimentel is trying to live a new life and escape old memories.

“I do have nightmares about it. There are triggers that remind me, I end up having flashbacks,” she said.

After documenting Pimentel’s story, News4 Investigates would then travel to Cullman, Alabama, where Nellsch lived.

There, we would find the women whom he called while in jail, and discovered one of Nellsch’s darkest secrets.

Our investigation continues in part three of our story here:

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