In 1961 a young girl close to death was spotted by a Freight that was sailing around the Bahamas.
The crew spotted the 11-year-old girl drifting through the ocean on a tiny cork float.
She soon became known as Terry Jo Duperrault – but no one knew how she became lost in the Atlantic Ocean alone.
Her story will terrify you.
The trip to this part of the world was meant to be one of a lifetime for the Dupperault family. In fact father, Dr Arthur Dupperault, an eye surgeon from Wisconsin and his wife Jean 38, had been saving for this amazing trip for a long time.
The couple took their three children along on the trip – Brian, 14, Terry Jo, 11, and Renee, 7. The family chartered a 60-foot ketch boat, to take them on their weeks holiday from Lauderdale, Florida, to explore the islands of the Bahamas.
On November 8, 1961, the family boarded the ship and set sail. The captain was Julian Harvey who also brought his wife along. For the first four days, the trip went just as planned.
But things got strange on November 12. With a long day of sailing ahead, Terry Jo decided to go to her cabin for an early night. But she was woken suddenly in the night by her brother’s cries and knew instantly something was wrong.
“I was awakened by my brother screaming ‘Help, daddy, help,’” Terry Jo, who now goes by the name Tere Duperrault Fassbender, told Fox News almost 50 years later. “It was the type of scream that you know that something horrible is happening.”
It turns out captain Harvey, a man with a troubled past, had chosen that night to murder his wife of just four months. It was later revealed that Harvey had not long taken out a life insurance policy on his wife. He intended to dispose of the body overboard and report her lost at sea. But things did not go to plan.
Dr Dupperrtault saw what was happening and intervened, sadly being killed by Harvey. Then in a desperate bid to get rid of any other witnesses to his crime, Harvey murdered all of the other members of the Dupperrault family who had been awake during the altercation. This left Terry Jo sleeping in her cabin below.
Terry Jo appeared on the deck a few minutes later to find her mother and brother laying in a pool of blood. She asked the captain what was happening.
But murderer Harvey forced Terry Jo back below deck, where the 11-year-old sat cowering in fear. It wasn’t until the water began to fill her cabin that she decided to go back on deck.
Harvey had opened up the ship’s sea valves with the intention of scuttling the vessel and gave Terry Jo a rope attached to a dinghy to hold. Later, Fassbender’s friend, Richard Logan, speculated that Harvey had planned on killing the girl too.
Instead, Terry Jo dropped the rope and Harvey dove into the sea to catch up with the dinghy – his lifeline. He abandoned Terry Jo on a sinking ship – but the 11-year-old was much tougher than she looked.
Terry Jo untied a tiny cork float and sailed away on it just as the ship sank. She drifted for the next four days without food or water. After a while she began to hallucinate – but she never lost faith in that she would be saved.
Eventually Captain Theo, a Greek freighter was passing through the Northwest Providence Channel that cuts through the Bahamas, discovered and rescued Terry Jo. She had a high fever and was suffering from sunburn and severe dehydration. One of the crew snapped a photograph of her tiny body floating on the boat in the huge ocean – it made headlines around the world.
The day previously, Harvey was found by the coastguard, floating in the dinghy alongside Renee’s dead body. The killer captain said a storm has battered the ship and sparked a fire and had sunk. He said he had unsuccessfully attempted to revive the girl after finding her in the water.
However once the news of Terry Jo’s rescue had spread across the world, Harvey checked himself into a hotel and took his own life. The knowledge of what he had done had become too much and he knew the truth would soon be revealed.
For Terry Jo it was just the beginning. Despite a family taking her in, they were advised to never discuss the traumatic events of November 1961. So for 20 years Terry Jo, didn’t speak about it to anyone.
But in the 1980s, she began to open up to a few close friends about what she had experienced. This led her to seek psychiatric help and later co-author a book named Alone: Orphaned on the Sea, where she discusses her experiences in depth. The book was published in May 2010 – almost half a century after the ordeal.
Terry Jo still works around water and credits her book for her healing process. She hopes it will help people who are overcoming tragedy in their own lives. “I always believed I was saved for a reason,” she said in an interview with 48 Hours. “But it took me 50 years to gain the strength to be able to give other people hope with my story.”