Two years ago, a young woman stepped out her front door and into the fight of her life.
On Wednesday, the 22-year-old Cal Poly student relived those moments in San Luis Obispo Superior Court during sentencing for the man who brutally assaulted her in an attempted rape.
The woman described how Derrick Robert Moore, 27, of Atascadero ambushed her on her way to work on Sept. 11, 2015. She spoke of the scars, both physical and psychological, that remain as she pleaded with Judge Jacquelyn Duffy to keep Moore off the streets.
The woman said as Moore wrapped his hands around her throat, she believed she was going to die. Moore pleaded no contest March 24 to enhanced charges of first-degree burglary and assault with intent to commit rape.
“I contemplated giving up because that would have been easier, but there was a voice inside me that told me to keep fighting,” she said.
Using a keychain pocketknife, the woman repeatedly stabbed Moore.
“I still have scars on my hands from the lacerations my pocketknife left when it closed on top of me while I was trying to defend myself,” she said.
After hearing the woman’s testimony, Duffy handed Moore a life sentence in state prison with the chance for parole after 38 years and ordered him to register as a sex offender. Moore apologized to the victim, his family, Duffy and the court staff for his actions in his brief remarks.
“Nothing I can say right now is going to take the pain out of what I caused with my actions,” he said. “I just want to apologize and say I’m sorry, and I know that I deserve the time that I get for it.”
The allegations were laid out in an April 25 court filing by the District Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutors said Moore tracked down the woman using “information of female clients from the tire store he had worked at, including names and addresses” and made eye contact with the woman outside of her apartment on two previous occasions before the attack.
He started his assault with a stun gun as he pushed her back into her apartment.
“He subsequently began to repeatedly punch the victim about her face, taking her to the ground. The defendant then wrapped his black-gloved hands around the victim’s throat and strangled her,” according to the District Attorney’s Office.
As a result of the attack, the woman suffered a broken nose, concussion, broken finger, bloodshot eyes and several bruises.
The woman spoke clearly Wednesday, her voice sometimes wavering, as she described her lingering injuries, while Moore stared at the floor.
“To this day, I have chronic back pain from being thrown against the wall and taken to the ground,” she said.
The woman’s roommate overheard the struggle and called 911, and soon police sirens were heard approaching.
“Hearing the sirens, the defendant suddenly stopped strangling the victim and was captured by an in-unit video eerily and coolly leaving the apartment, down the stairs and away from the complex,” according to the prosecution.
Police later located Moore hiding in brush nearby, aided in part by the trail of blood left by the pocketknife stab wounds. He had a condom in his pocket.
The woman said she did not feel safe after the attack despite the fact that Moore was behind bars. She was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and said she has trouble sleeping or going out in public without her service dog. She said the attack also damaged her academic life, and she went from being a straight-A student to struggling in class.
“What I miss most is being an independent person,” the woman said. “Now, just walking to my car can have its obstacles.”
She said she’s had to move and change her vehicle, and that the attack turned her world upside down.
“I will say, in a way I’m glad that I was the random target of his attack,” the woman said. “I’m here today, and I fear that if it was someone else, they might not be.”
Also speaking Wednesday was the woman’s stepfather.
“I want all three of my daughters to be safe from people like Derrick Moore,” he said. “This is the unfathomable fear of parents, that their children will be attacked by a person who has no social conscience.”
After the woman’s remarks, Duffy addressed her from the bench.
“I very much remember your testimony at the preliminary hearing, and I was struck then as I am struck now by your strength and by your ability to survive,” she said.
Duffy said the woman showed incredible grace in her testimony.
“I think that you’re a person who’s capable of doing extraordinary things in your life,” Duffy continued. “You have incredible courage, strength, and good things are going to happen to you.”