An assault on a recycling center employee last weekend has authorities searching for a faceless culprit or culprits.
The incident occurred at approximately 6:43 p.m. on Saturday evening, when Otto Recycling Center employee Pam Keyser was preparing to shut down the facility for the day.
“I went out to turn on the [trash] compactor, like we always do toward the end of the day,” she recalled. “I turned it on and as I knelt to pick up some loose trash in front of the compactor, I felt something grab what I think were my overall suspenders from behind ... I was being pulled from behind.”
Keyser said that the sudden attack from behind was unexpected, and that the fence-railing separating the dumpsters from the vehicle area proved invaluable as she realized she was being attacked.
“I clung to the fence and screamed bloody murder ... I never stopped screaming,” Keyser said. “They were tugging on me and hitting my head on the railing. I feared being thrown into the compactor.” She added that she thought she heard a male voice laughing as she screamed, and when she was no longer being pulled by her overalls, she noticed there was nobody there.
While her memory of the incident is not quite clear, Keyser suspects that there was more than one assailant. After hearing her attacker’s laughter, she explained that she then heard a vehicle drive up. As it sped off shortly thereafter, she ran to hide in the center’s office.
Luckily, she was not alone at the center for long.
“I put the [cordless] phone in the top bib of my overalls and while I was being attacked, it must have redialed one of my coworkers’ cell phone,” she said, explaining that her coworker Butch Brooks arrived approximately four minutes after her phone call. “Butch was a lifesaver. I am thankful the phone redialed him.”
Brooks, who has worked at the center for about the same amount of time, said that when he answered the phone call, the first thing he heard was the growl of the compactor. “Within about two seconds I heard someone scream ‘help me!’ It made my blood run cold, and then I heard what sounded like laughter,” he said. It was at that point that he raced to the center as fast as he could.
“I was in fear for my co-worker,” Brooks said, an employee at the center for five months. The worst behavior he had ever encountered were impatient senior citizens or recyclers waiting in line, not people capable of assault. “In a million years I never would have thought this would have happened.”
“All that went through my head at the time was that I would not let go of the fence and the fact that they were laughing,” she said. “I can’t figure out what they wanted.”
Keyser, who is in her early 60s, said that she had never been in fear of her life in the six months since she began working at the center, but that the incident would not deter her from the job she enjoys.
“I love what I do. I love meeting new people and helping out the people in the community,” she said on Monday. “I’m not going to let this stop me from doing what I love to do.”
According to Macon County Sheriff’s Office detective Stephanie Pellicer, the investigation is open and ongoing, and at this point, there are no suspects. Anyone with any information leading to the apprehension of the assailants is being urged to contact investigators at (828)349-2104.
Coworkers of Keyser said that from this point on, there will now be two employees working at the center at the end of each work day for safety reasons.