The last words Angela Valle says she heard before her boyfriend drove an ax into her skull is a chilling omen she can’t forget.
“You all are not getting out of this,” Jerry Brown said, clutching the 3-foot hatchet as he stood over Valle and her childhood best friend Savannah Rivera, while they sat on the sofa in Valle’s Bushwick apartment.
“It’s me, it’s me, what is wrong with you?” Valle tried to reason.
“Shut the f–k up. Just shut the f–k up. Sit on the floor,” Brown ordered, Valle recalled in her first-ever interview since the April 20th bloodbath that left Rivera dead and Valle grievously injured.
“Put your hands down or I’m going to crack your s–t,” Brown said, almost methodically, as Valle and the pregnant Rivera now sat on the floor, their backs to the couch, heads draped over the seat cushions, so that their necks were fully exposed.
Rivera reached her arm over to hug Valle, but Brown demanded they stay still.
“He was just like slowly swinging the ax back and forth, and I’m telling him, ‘My daughter is in the back room. I’m like, ‘It’s Angie, it’s Angie,’” Valle recalled, repeating her own name, hoping to spark a connection and soothe him.
“I’m thinking in my head — ‘This is it. We are about to die.’”
PTSD has spared Valle from remembering what happened next, but police say Brown used the Mintcraft-brand ax to nearly decapitate Rivera, 20, killing her and her 9-week-old fetus. He also took the blade to Valle’s skull — as her 4-year-old daughter, Aliana, slept in another room.
Valle, 22, somehow managed to flee Apartment 8J alive.
“I remember going down the steps from the eighth floor. I remember it was raining outside and getting into someone’s car,” Valle said, recalling a random Uber she stumbled into around 1 a.m. in the aftermath of the attack.
“I remember saying, ‘It’s stuck. It’s stuck.’ I felt like something was stuck in my head.”
The Uber driver called police, and NYPD Officers Sean Doohan and Mary Sobieski arrived around 1:16 a.m. Valle said she begged them to retrieve Aliana, who was still upstairs, but they refused, saying the building was outside of their jurisdiction.
Doohan resigned less than a week later amid an NYPD probe into the officers’ alleged inaction.
Seventy-five minutes after Doohan and Sobieski showed up, a sergeant entered the apartment and found Rivera dead — and Aliana miraculously unharmed.
“I am upset with them,” Valle said about the NYPD. “I was pleading for somebody to go upstairs, and I was told they … went up a whole hour later. Within that hour nobody knew where Jerry was, and anything could have happened.”
An ambulance took Valle to Elmhurst Hospital, where she spent the next month being treated for a fractured skull, broken ribs, collapsed lungs and multiple stab wounds.
Police discovered the blood-smeared ax in the building incinerator.
Brown, 35, turned himself in later that afternoon, and has been in and out of psychiatric lockup in city jails, where he racked up another felony charge in August for allegedly throwing feces at a female guard.
Before he was taken into custody, Brown spoke to a WPIX11 reporter and claimed to have a history of mental illness and no memory of the attack. A judge has ordered a psychiatric evaluation in the case. Brown has pleaded not guilty to murder and assorted charges.
Nine months later, Valle said she is “trying to be OK,” but is still haunted — physically and mentally — by the ordeal. She described her life as “overwhelming, sad, depressed.”
“I survived, but it doesn’t mean I’m in the clear, because I still have a lot of surgeries and stuff like that,” she said. “So anything can happen.”
Doctors had to replace part of Valle’s skull with a metal plate, but later removed it because of an infection. She now wears a helmet to protect her brain. Injuries to her nervous system prevent her from seeing peripherally out of her left eye.
“I recovered really well. I was told I would have to start all over again . . . like walking and talking, but all of that is fine,” Valle said. “My whole right side of my skull [is missing] . . . I have to wear a helmet when I’m outside. It makes me feel insecure about the way I look.”
Valle views her daughter’s survival as a miracle, but fears lasting emotional trauma for the little girl.
“She does ask me questions . . . but how do you explain any of this to a 5-year-old? I just tell her, ‘Mommy is gonna be OK.’”
The little girl also comforts her mom: “She will say, ‘Don’t worry, Jerry is not going to hurt you anymore.’”
Valle’s renewed bond with her daughter’s father, her high school sweetheart, is the one good thing that’s come out of the nightmare.
“He hasn’t left my side since,” Valle said of her ex. “Our relationship has gotten way better.”
Valle and her ex had broken up only months earlier when she met Brown at the Bushwick Houses, where both lived with their mothers.
They bonded over horror movies — a shared interest Valle now sees as an eerie harbinger of Brown’s violent side.
“We watched a lot of horror movies together. He said he always wanted to make a horror movie,” she said.
Valle said she began to take Brown’s fantasies seriously on Valentine’s Day last year, when he held her “hostage” in her apartment and stabbed her several times with a knife. The punctures were shallow enough that she could nurse the wounds herself, but serious enough to draw blood and leave scars.
He threatened more severe consequences if she reported it, she said. Valle said she tried to break up with Brown after that attack, but he made it clear that wouldn’t be possible.
“When we did have that conversation . . . he said, ‘I didn’t waste all my time and energy on this relationship for you not to want to be with me anymore,’” Valle recalled.
In both attacks, neither a fight nor harsh words preceded Brown’s violence, Valle said. He just snapped.
“It’s like he’s not there,” she said. “Like he’s a whole different person.
“His face was so emotionless. It was like blank [during the attacks].”
In the days leading up to April 20, Valle and Rivera had been inseparable. Brown joined them on the 19th. Hours before the violence unfolded, the trio took Valle’s daughter to the Garden Playground at PS 120 and grabbed pizza.
At some point during their two-day sleepover, the three stopped at a local liquor store and picked up a bottle of Jose Cuervo. When the sun set on the 19th, Valle put Aliana to bed, and the three friends cracked open the bottle.
The low-key party began normally, until Valle noticed Brown behaving strangely around her kitchen knife set, she said, and memories of the February attack came flooding back. To prevent him from using one of the blades, Valle “took all the knives and threw them out the window.
“He was upset I did that, and I told him straight up ‘I don’t trust you,’” Valle said.
“He was like, ‘I told you I would never do anything like that to you again.’”
Then she remembered the ax. Brown had brought it to her apartment weeks earlier and told her it was for “construction.” She moved the ax from her bedroom to the guest room.
Brown told Valle she was overreacting.
“He’s like, ‘What happened? Are you scared? Go ahead and hide it. Put it wherever you want to put it,’” Valle said. “It looked like he went to the living room, but he must have seen where I put it, because obviously he got to it.”
Less than an hour later, the three were watching a Spanish music video when Brown got up to use the restroom — and returned with the ax.
“That song kept playing over and over again [during the attack],” she said.
Valle said Brown never gave any indication why he was doing what he did — but in retrospect, the signs were there.
“There are so many things I think of now, and to me, those were signs, like he was trying to tell me something,” she said, referring to his affinity for horror, the February attack, the ax.
Valle said she carries an immense amount of guilt, for her daughter, Rivera and Rivera’s unborn child.
“I’m sorry about what happened. I wish there was something I could have done to prevent the whole thing from happening. I love her, and I miss her,” Valle said, speaking to Rivera’s family. “She was in the wrong place, at the wrong time.”
She also has a message for the Uber driver, Boshra Azer, who called 911 and waited with Valle until police arrived: “Thank you for not leaving me,” she said, sobbing. “And thank you for getting me help. Just thank you.”
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