TOWN OF WATERFORD — It’s not the way some people decide they want to break into politics.
After being beaten with a baseball bat, stuffed in a trash can with snow and left to die in her ex-husband’s storage unit, Teri Jendusa-Nicolai turned into a domestic violence victims’ rights advocate.
She speaks at schools and at the state Capitol in favor of domestic violence-related bills. It has been testifying before state legislators that prompted the married mother of three to run for Town of Waterford supervisor in the April 5 municipal election.
“I love doing my talks and talking to the high school and college kids,” said Jendusa-Nicolai, 50, of the Tichigan area of the Town of Waterford. However, testifying about a bill “is a whole other side that helps people. You see ‘if this was a law when I was there, I wouldn’t have to go through A-B-C.’ …I really, really enjoy that aspect.”
With her youngest child now in elementary school, she has time to devote to town supervisor duties, she said.
“I grew from a quiet, mousy housewife person (by speaking out). Sometimes the best legislators are people who have things in their past,” she said Tuesday. “All the life experiences make who we are.”
Beaten, bound, abandoned
It was on Jan. 31, 2004, that the mother of two traveled to her ex-husband’s home to pick up their daughters, then ages 4 and 6. Instead, Jendusa-Nicolai was beaten with a baseball bat, bound with tape and then stuffed into a garbage can with snow. Jendusa-Nicolai was remarried and pregnant for the third time when David M. Larsen kidnapped her.
With their daughters in the truck, her ex-husband drove into northern Illinois and stowed that trash can in a storage unit he owned.
Nearly 26 hours passed before investigators found Jendusa-Nicolai, barely alive, in Larsen’s storage unit in Wheeling, Illinois. She miscarried, and lost all her toes from frostbite.
Larsen, of the Town of Norway, was convicted of attempted first-degree intentional homicide. He was sentenced in August 2005 to 35 years in prison plus 20 years on extended supervision.
Having survived the ordeal and married for 12 years to her husband, Nick, Jendusa-Nicolai’s experiences are driving her to try to help others and to give back to the community she’s lived in for eight years.
If elected, she wants to host coffee klatches, she said. During these informal gatherings for coffee and conversation, residents will be able to ask questions and voice concerns. She said with residents’ busy lives, these informal gatherings make town government more accessible.
“I’m here to serve you,” she said. “I’m here to serve my community. That’s the way it should be.”
Jendusa-Nicolai will face incumbent supervisors Jan Alvey and Tim Szeklinski in the election.