‘We’re still here’: Brookhaven woman reflects on stabbing, emergency birth of son

She was five months pregnant and had to have an emergency C-section after being stabbed while walking with her 3-year-old son
Valerie Kasper (left) with her boyfriend and their son Benjamin (center). This photo was taken roughly two weeks before Kasper was stabbed in the back multiple times, forcing her to undergo an emergency C-section to save her newborn.

Credit: Valerie Kasper

Credit: Valerie Kasper

Valerie Kasper (left) with her boyfriend and their son Benjamin (center). This photo was taken roughly two weeks before Kasper was stabbed in the back multiple times, forcing her to undergo an emergency C-section to save her newborn.

Valerie Kasper is still processing what happened to her last weekend.

While walking along a popular walking trail in Brookhaven, she was stabbed in the back four times by a stranger in broad daylight. Her 3-year-old son was right by her side. Pregnant with her second child, Kasper’s injuries forced doctors to deliver her baby more than 3 months early.

She remained in Grady Memorial Hospital on Friday, optimistic that she would be released Saturday after undergoing multiple surgeries. She has a long road ahead, but is expected to fully recover. The fact both she and her newborn are alive is enough to keep her moving forward.

“I definitely have flashbacks every second, but I have to just tell myself I’m here. I made it,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution over the phone. “I don’t know how that happened or how he didn’t hit the baby, but we’re still here.”

Police announced Thursday they had arrested Christopher Jones, 30, and that he admitted to the stabbing. He was denied bond Friday on counts of aggravated assault, aggravated battery and first-degree child cruelty. Police said Jones, who is homeless, has a history of mental illness and was known to police.

Police called it a “completely unprovoked attack.”

Christopher Jones

Credit: DeKalb County Sheriff's Office

icon to expand image

Credit: DeKalb County Sheriff's Office

“I want to be clear, the victim in this case did everything right,” police Lt. David Snively said at a news conference to announce the arrest.

Kasper was in surgery when police told her family an arrest had been made. When she found out, she said, “It was just happy tears.”

‘Excuse me, please don’t follow us’

Kasper, 34, lives near Peachtree Creek Greenway and said she goes there to walk and run fairly often. The 1.3-mile path, which opened in December 2019, will eventually stretch from Spaghetti Junction to the Atlanta Beltline.

Her son, Benjamin, wasn’t feeling well last Saturday and wanted to visit a park. Kasper decided the nearby trail would make for a nice afternoon outside, and they drove to the Corporate Boulevard trailhead about 4:30 p.m.

She knows they walked 0.62 miles, because she was tracking it to log for a Sesame Street virtual running challenge. After they heard some thunder, they began to walk back to their car. They were close to the parking lot when they spotted a man walking toward them.

“I saw this guy, who was fairly far ahead of us but not moving to the side (of the trail) at all and walking straight at us,” Kasper said. “... He kind of got close to us. He said, I think, ‘Do you live around here?’ And I didn’t know how to respond to that. I didn’t want to say yes, didn’t want to say no.”

She quickly said she did and called for her son to hurry up because of the looming weather, passing the man. Kasper said she began to feel nervous when she noticed he had turned around and was following them.

“I said, ‘Excuse me, please don’t follow us,’” Kasper said. The man didn’t respond but kept following.

There were only a few people around as they neared the parking lot.

“He slowed down once he saw people, so I’m trying to get my son to move faster,” she said. “Honestly, I was really close to my car, because my son was standing with me, hand-in-hand, when he ran up behind me, stabbing me. It felt like I was being punched like in a boxing ring. I didn’t realize there was a knife. I was literally screaming bloody murder.”

While in shock, she saw the man holding a knife before he ran away. Kasper said she was somehow able to dial 911, and paramedics quickly responded from a nearby fire station.

“I was trying to text Steve, my boyfriend, and I was trying to text my dad, my mom and my brother. But there was so much blood, I couldn’t text any words,” Kasper said on the phone, audibly trying not to cry.

96 days from the due date

She couldn’t stop panicking until she was at Grady Memorial Hospital and heard these words: The baby is OK.

“At that moment, I was instantly relieved,” she said.

She was stabbed four times on her back and side, leaving puncture wounds on her colon and liver. At some point Saturday night, doctors told her she would have to have an emergency C-section to try to save her son, who had only been in her womb for 25 weeks.

By the end of the night, she gave birth to Theodore Jude. Weighing a little more than two pounds, he’s classified as a “micro-preemie” infant, and he’s expected to be in the hospital’s Newborn Intensive Care Unit for months.

Kasper said she and her boyfriend chose the name Theodore because its Greek origins mean “gift of God.” Jude is the patron saint of lost causes, often seen as a symbol for choosing faith when all seems hopeless.

“This has really been a miracle, and I wanted to pick something that represents this experience,” Kasper said.

In between her surgeries, Kasper has visited her son. The first time she saw him was Sunday, but she said she wasn’t in the physical shape to spend much time with him. A visit Thursday night went much better, she said.

“It’s just going to be a roller coaster,” she said. “It’s 96 days until his actual due date, and we have 96 days to keep coming in, talking to him, giving him milk and giving him hope.”

Staying positive

As she grapples with painkillers, surgeries and trauma, Kasper said the support of her friends, family and colleagues have helped keep her spirits up over the past week.

She’s a teacher at Atlanta International School, a private school in Buckhead, and said she’s received an overflow of messages and kind words. She listed off dozens of people who have to come to her aid, whether they be longtime friends, her parents or family members from around the country.

A GoFundMe page, created by a childhood friend, has raised more than $80,000 to help the family with medical bills.

“So many people have reached out to me from my entire life from everything I’ve ever done,” she said. “From my childhood, from college, from high school, studying abroad, teaching abroad ... I really appreciate it. It’s really helped me stay positive.”

Her son Benjamin has been distracted by friends and family up to this point, but Kasper worries he’ll one day realize what he witnessed. She’s also trying not to blame herself for what happened or think of all the ways it — possibly — could have been prevented.

“He came from behind me. How could I have known?” she said, adding that she has not wanted to watch t.v. coverage of the crime. “I think I’m going to feel vulnerable for a long time. I definitely feel like my freedoms have been taken away.”

Her school holds an annual “My Freedom Day” event each year, and she said she can’t reflect on her usual answer without breaking down and crying.

“I usually tell students that a pair of running shoes and being able to go out my front door for a run is my freedom,” she said. “And that’s literally what was taken away.”