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Sexual Predator’s Release Triggers Dark, 40-Year-Old Memories for Rape Survivor

Orcutt woman recounts assault by Tibor Karsai that she alleges occurred when she was 13, says she's coming forward 'for all the other little girls out there'

Amy was 13 years old and living in Goleta when her innocence was ripped away from her, a dark secret that remained hidden for nearly 40 years.

Tibor Karsai, designated by the State of California as a
Tibor Karsai, designated by the State of California as a “sexually violent predator,” was released in Santa Barbara County on April 15. Karsai served three years in prison for a vicious rape of a 19-year-old Santa Barbara woman in 1973. After his parole, he was convicted of a second savage sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl in Placer County.

She kept what happened bottled up, even as it gnawed away at her and shaped her life in unwelcome ways.

“It’s one of those things I would think about, but not in detail,” the 54-year-old Orcutt resident told Noozhawk. “It would pop up, but for so long I thought I had buried it.”

Then her hidden past burst to the surface one day in 2010, when she opened up a local newspaper and saw Tibor Karsai’s picture staring back at her.

The accompanying article said that Karsai, who had served a lengthy prison sentence after brutally raping two young women, might be released from a state mental hospital where he had been held as a sexually violent predator.

“I can’t even explain the feeling,” said Amy, who asked that her last name not be published. “It was just dread. It wasn’t for me. It was for all the other little girls out there.”

The intense fear she felt stemmed from her belief that the man she knew as Ted Karsai — the older brother of her best friend in childhood — would do to other young girls what she says he did to her more than four decades ago.

“He raped me,” Amy said, her voice wavering only slightly.

Karsai, 59, is now living somewhere in Santa Barbara County, having been released earlier this month as a transient. A Placer County judge — ultimately with the assent of the state Supreme Court — ordered him released in Santa Barbara County, rebuffing the efforts of District Attorney Joyce Dudley and other local officials to keep him away.

What little information has been released regarding Karsai’s whereabouts suggests he is living in an RV or trailer in some remote location in the North County, closely supervised by a private company that specializes in such cases.

That’s little consolation to Amy, who during a lengthy interview with Noozhawk described what Karsai did to her.

“It took me a lot of years to figure out that it had a major effect on how I lived my life,” she said. “I married several times, and every time, as soon as I felt threatened in any way — and I wasn’t married to bad people — I would leave the marriage. But I always wanted to be married.”

Marriage was far from Amy’s mind on New Year’s Eve 1971, when she made plans to spend the night with her best friend, one of Karsai’s sisters, at their home a few doors down the street from where she lived on Rhoads Avenue south of Hollister Avenue, in a quiet neighborhood of modest single-family houses not far from the Magnolia Shopping Center.

The Karsai home “was a pretty lax household,” Amy said, which made it a fun place to be.

Although Amy’s parents had divorced when she was in kindergarten, she recalls a childhood that, if something short of idyllic, was not particularly dysfunctional.

“I felt that my family was normal,” she said.

She lived with her mother and stepfather in the home on Rhoads Avenue, but regularly saw her father, who had his own place in the Ellwood area. She attended local schools and graduated from San Marcos High School in 1976.

But, she said, her life was forever changed on that New Year’s Eve; she was in her best friend’s room when Karsai and a friend came in.

“I can’t remember exactly how it happened,” Amy said. “We were drinking orange sodas, and he poured vodka in my soda.”

Amy said she had never consumed alcohol before — “It was new to me, and I was timid about it, but I was 13 and I was going to try it.”

She doesn’t remember how much she drank, but recalls being “pretty much aware of what was going on the majority of the night.”

Amy said she and Karsai’s sister, who she requested not be named for this story, were like peas in a pod, having frequent sleepovers and often sharing the same bed.

They went to sleep late that night, well after midnight since it was New Year’s Eve, and she awoke sometime later.

“I felt someone get into bed, and I just moved over,” she recalled, thinking it was her friend.

“Then I felt an arm go over my face — the weight of an arm over the side of my face,” she continued. “I tried to pull to the side — first I thought it was (the sister) playing around, but then I realized I was pinned down.

“I could see the outline of Ted’s face, and I knew it was him, because I had grown up with him.

“And then I felt the weight of his body move over on top of me, and I was struggling, but I was scared to say anything. I was trying to move out from under his weight.

“He didn’t threaten me or anything; he just shushed me up. Shhhhs. Shhhhs. Shhhhs.”

That’s when Karsai sexually assaulted her, Amy said.

“Then I felt like all of a sudden it was morning ...” Amy recalled. “I went into the bathroom, and I was bleeding vaginally.

“I called my girlfriend in, and I didn’t use the word rape, and I said, ‘I think your brother did something to me.’

“I pulled my hand out to show her the blood on my hand.”

Amy said the sister “just nodded her head. I’m speculating, but it didn’t seem to surprise her.”

The sister bolted from the bathroom, Amy said, ran into Karsai’s room and began screaming at him in Hungarian, the family’s native language.

Later that morning, as Amy and the sister walked together down the street to Amy’s house, the two made a pledge that they would keep what had happened a secret.

Amy said she never spoke of the incident again until she learned of Karsai’s possible release.

She didn’t tell her own mother at the time, she said, because her sister, not long before, had accused their stepfather of touching her inappropriately, “and my mother didn’t want to talk to her about it.”

She also was fearful that telling would cost her her dearest friend.

“I was afraid because the most important thing to me was my friendship,” she said.

She also remembers that Karsai, whom she described as a neighborhood bully, taunted her long after the night he forced himself on her.

“He was very intimidating, and I was already afraid of him,” she said.

Still reeling from the sexual assault, Amy was traumatized again a month later when her father suddenly died at age 40.

Two years later, in 1973, Karsai raped a 19-year-old woman at a trailer park near Santa Barbara, the crime that first sent him to prison. (After his release three years later, he would later savagely rape a 16-year-old girl in Placer County.)

Also in 1973, while Amy was in ninth grade, she gave birth to her first child, a son, at the age of 15. He was the product of a relationship with a boyfriend of the same age.

She eventually married and had two more children — both daughters — and went through a series of failed relationships.

Because of the rape, she said, “I was very promiscuous throughout my life. You’d think it would be the opposite but it wasn’t.”

Amy studied horticulture at Santa Barbara City College, and started a landscaping business, before returning to school to get her cosmetology license.

She operated salons in Santa Barbara for a number of years before moving to the Reno area, then returned to Santa Barbara County in 2010.

Today, she owns and operates a business in Buellton, and lives with a man who has given her tremendous support as she grapples with her memories and steps forward to tell her story.

She reached out to Dudley’s office, she said, because she wants to send a cautionary message to today’s parents of young children.

“When I saw the last article, that he was definitely getting out, that was the one that brought chills down to the bone,” she said. “I couldn’t hold my legs underneath me, and I realized I needed to tell my story.

“Hopefully, even if it’s just one parent who sees the significance of this, they will be that much more in tune to what their children are doing and where they are spending the night.”

Amy contacted Dudley’s office, which assigned an investigator to interview her. Dudley herself researched whether it was possible to prosecute Karsai for the assault.

However, because so much time has passed — and based on the laws in effect at the time — the statute of limitations prevents prosecutors from taking any action against Karsai, said Dudley, who called the case “heartbreaking.”

“Had it been possible for us to file charges in this case, we would have,” Dudley said. “The standard in criminal cases is ‘beyond a reasonable doubt,’ and were it not for the statute of limitations running out, I feel we could prove it.”

Amy said she doesn’t feel physically threatened now that Karsai is in the community.

“It’s just knowing that he’s out there, and he’s of a certain mind set, and he will be preying on another young girl,” she said.

She doesn’t accept the assurances from state hospital officials who say Karsai is rehabilitated and suitable for release.

“Knowing him, and knowing how much pleasure he got out of making me uncomfortable after what he’d done, I don’t believe it’s possible to rehabilitate him,” she said.

Amy said the last few years have caused her to really reflect on her life.

“I’ve been sad a lot lately, but I’ve forged through a lot in my life,” she said. “I feel good about myself.”

Amy paused when asked what she would do if she encountered Karsai on the street.

“I’ve thought about it ...” she said. “The truth is, I firmly believe that you cannot penetrate someone like him. So no matter what you were to say, it wouldn’t really matter. He’s nothing more than a criminal who repeats the same act over and over again.”

Amy said she spent a sleepless night after sharing her story last week, “haunted” by the realization that by not speaking up so many years ago, she may have allowed other girls to be victimized by Karsai.

But she pledged to be silent no more.

“I’m dedicating myself to seeing that this doesn’t happen again,” she said.

Click here for Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center resources available to assist sexual-assault victims and their families.

Click here for information about the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Victim-Witness Program, which has additional resources available to assist victims and their families.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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