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Wordle Credited With Saving 80-Year-Old Chicago Woman After Kidnapping

“I didn’t think I was going to live,” Denyse Holt said of the terrifying 20 hours she spent trapped in her home with a naked stranger armed with a pair of scissors and several knives.

By Jill Sederstrom
James Davis Iii Pd

When an 80-year-old Chicago woman woke up early Sunday morning to find a bloody, naked man yielding a pair of scissors by her bed, she never imagined the popular word game Wordle would ultimately lead to her rescue.

Denyse Holt was held captive in her Chicago-area home for 20 hours by a man — later identified by police as 32-year-old James H. Davis III — who had broken in through a window, climbed into her bed, forced her to take a bath with him and then locked her in the basement bathroom of her own home.

“I didn’t think I was going to live,” Holt told local station WBBM-TV.

But what Holt didn’t realize as she huddled in her locked bathroom was that, hundreds of miles away in Seattle, her adult daughter was growing concerned that her mother hadn't texted her with her Wordle score that Sunday morning — which Holt usually did each day.

The game — which requires players to try to guess a different five-letter word each day using only the letters of the alphabet for clues — has gained a massive following and gives each player a score based on how many tries it takes to guess the word for that day.

“I’m across the country and I noticed this,” Holt’s daughter, Meredith Holt-Caldwell, told WBBM-TV.

When Holt’s other daughter noticed none of her texts to her mother that day had been read and a neighbor was unable to make contact with Holt, the daughters called Lincolnwood Police to request a welfare check, ultimately alerting police to Holt’s dire situation inside the home, The Washington Post reports.

“I never thought in a million years this is what was happening, but it was,” Holt-Caldwell said.

Holt told The Washington Post that she woke up around 1 a.m. Sunday to find a naked man standing by the side of her bed, clutching a pair of scissors.

“If you talk, if you yell or you scream, I’m going to cut you,” she said he told her.

The man, who was bleeding profusely and shivering, climbed into the bed with her as Holt tried to reassure him that she would follow his instructions.

When he asked what phones were in the house, Holt told him she had a cell phone and described where two other landline telephones were in the home.

“Don’t lie to me, or I’ll cut you,” he allegedly said.

When Holt told the man that he was scaring her, she said he threw the scissors across the room and assured her “I will not harm you or molest you.”

The man, who police would later say was in the midst of a mental health crisis, was still struggling to get warm and demanded Holt — still dressed in her nightgown — take a shower with him, The Post reports.

But the shower failed to warm him up and he insisted that she take a bath with him instead, instructing her to lay on top of him.

Fearing for her life, Holt agreed.

“I said, ‘Listen, you are the captain, and I’m on your team. Whatever you say, we will do.”

After the bath, Holt said the man led her — in her soaking wet pajamas — through the house, where he grabbed two knives from the kitchen before leading her into to a bathroom in the basement of her house and locking her inside. 

Holt tried to remain positive by thinking of others who had endured much worse fates — like those who were forced into concentration camps during World War II.

“They managed to stay alive, and you’re going to act up for one goddamn night or two nights in the basement?” she said she told herself.

Holt decided she didn’t “want to die like this” and started exercising every few minutes to keep herself active.

“I was doing marching and stretching as much as I could,” she told WBBM-TV.

Her daughters, believing their 80-year-old mother might have fallen or suffered a medical emergency, called police to request the welfare check on Sunday night.

Around 9:40 p.m., Holt told The Post she could hear police shouting “Anybody home?” outside the house and she knew it was her chance to get rescued.

“I’m here! I’m here! I’m here in the basement!” she shouted.

Officers were able to find her and set her free while they continued to negotiate with Davis, who was armed with "several knives" and in a second-floor bedroom, according to a statement from Lincolnwood Police obtained by Oxygen.com. Officers tried to take him into custody using a Taster, but eventually called in a SWAT team after that attempt was unsuccessful.

They were able to take him into custody around 3 a.m. using “less than lethal options," police said.

Davis is now facing charges of home invasion with a dangerous weapon, aggravated kidnapping while armed with a dangerous weapon and two counts of aggravated assault of a police officer..

According to police, Holt was determined to be "physically unharmed" after the ordeal.

While Holt told The Washington Post that she is “lucky to be alive,” she said she can no longer live in the house she’s called a home for half a century.

“I came back, and it didn’t look like my house. It just looked disgusting….It just made me terribly sad, because I like my neighborhood,” she said. “I like my neighbors. I like my house. And I know I couldn’t live there anymore. That’s just taken away from me.”

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