Alleged child rape victim describes her sexual predator nightmare

Story highlights

  • Elby Hars was previously convicted of sexually assaulting underage girls
  • Got a tip? Call 1-866-THE HUNT (01-800-099-0546 in Mexico) or click here

(CNN)Tracie remembers when she met Elby Hars and his daughter Terri Hars, a day that would forever change the path of her life.

About age 12 at the time, Tracie and her mom had stopped at a store near their home in Richland County, South Carolina, when they happened to run into the Hars.
"I realized they lived right down the road from us," Tracie told CNN's "The Hunt with John Walsh," requesting that CNN not use her last name.
Predator uses Disney trip to lure victim, police say
The Hunt with John Walsh Ep. 211 Elby Hars _00010212


    Predator uses Disney trip to lure victim, police say


Predator uses Disney trip to lure victim, police say 01:18
That meeting led to Tracie going to the Hars' trailer home after school, where Terri would pay her $10 a day to do light housekeeping. "Whenever I got done, we'd sit around and just talk and I'd keep her company."
    The friendly, single father and his 20-something daughter with the big smile seemed harmless and trustworthy enough.

    Dark secrets

    But what Tracie and her mom didn't know was that Elby Hars had been convicted decades earlier of molesting Terri when she was 7 years old. For that crime, he served about three months in prison. He also was convicted in another sex-with-a-minor case and sentenced to ten years in prison.
    Astonishingly, when Elby Hars was released, his daughter Terri decided to live with the father who molested her, joining him aboard his big semi-truck, criss-crossing the country, making deliveries.
    "Terri was a victim when she was 7 years old," said Maj. Stan Smith of the Richland County Sheriff's Department. "We know from working these cases that often times people that molest children were victims of molestation. And obviously it played out in just that fashion with regard to Terri. She became a predator."
    Now it was the late 1990s, and Terri Hars was getting to know Tracie.
    Sometimes they enjoyed shopping together or went to the movies. "She was fun to hang out with, at first," Tracie said.
    Then Terri's dad Elby Hars started coming with them to the movies.
    After a while "it got to where he was going about everywhere with us after that."
    Next, Elby Hars took them on a weeklong trip to Florida.

    The attack

    Elby and Terri Hars invested two years getting Tracie to feel comfortable with them, said Smith. "Then they felt it was time to pursue their goal, as sick as it was."
    That goal, Smith said, was criminal sexual conduct with a minor.
    Tracie remembers when Elby and Terri Hars first attacked her at Hars' trailer home.
    "We were sitting in the living room and just hanging out watching TV and Elby had changed it to a porn movie," Tracie recalled. That's when, Tracie says, both Terri and Elby began acting inappropriately toward her.
    "She said 'we just want to take some pictures of you.' ... She came over to me and said, 'We're going to take off your shirt.' She didn't ask, she just did it." Then they started taking pictures with a Polaroid camera, she said. Elby Hars, she said, "was just sitting there watching."
    Then, Elby and Terri Hars approached her, Tracie said, took off Tracie's clothes and laid her on the bed.
    "Her hands were on me the whole time," Tracie said. "She kept saying everything was going to be OK, while he just did whatever he wanted."
    Afterward, Tracie remembers, Elby and Terri Hars got up and walked into the living room and said she could get dressed.
    "Sometimes they would actually lay in the bed the two of them together would have sex," Tracie said. "It was very disturbing."


    Tracie said the attacks continued for about a year or 18 months, until one day Terri made a comment suggesting that Tracie might be pregnant.
    Terri told Tracie she and her dad would take Tracie to Florida to have the baby -- and they would raise the child.
    But instead, Tracie went to her mom for help, and together they decided to contact a child adoption agency.

    On the run

    A resulting police investigation resulted in an arrest warrant for Elby and Terri Hars. Police and attorneys made arrangements for the Hars to turn themselves in.
    The charges: criminal sexual conduct with a minor.
    In April 2000, when Terri Hars showed up to turn herself in to police, Elby Hars was not with her.
    At that point, Smith said, "It was clear that Elby was on the run."
    Smith theorized that Hars decided to run because of his previous convictions. "If he got convicted of these charges, he may not get out," Smith said.
    Terri was convicted of crimes against Tracie and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

    The fugitive

    Elby Hars
    Age: 73
    Weight: 245 pounds
    Height: 5 feet, 8 inches
    Charged with criminal sexual conduct with a minor
    On the run since 2000
    Distinguishing features: Scars on both arms
    Hars has possible connections in Northeast Florida and Mexico.

    Richland County Sheriff's Department, South Carolina

    "This is sort of a process where they slowly seduce them. They slowly convince them that they love them. It takes place over time, " said retired investigator Randy Thomas, who worked on the case.
    Randy Thomas, retired investigator
    "When you work sex crimes you see a lot of unusual things. He's a monster," said Maj. Smith of the Richland County Sheriff's Department.
    "I feel very certain there are other victims. Especially with the nature of their long distance travel across this country."

    The victim

    "He needs to be behind bars away from any other kids, because it seems like that's all he wants," said Tracie. "If you can put your own hands on your own child, then any child -- there's no child that's off limits to you."