COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – A local real estate agent attacked during an open house is taking on a new platform and sharing details on the case now that her attacker has been convicted.
During the attack last August, Dawna Hetzler, broker and owner of New Dawn Realty Inc. and Metro Brokers Real Estate, was doused in the face with bear spray.
The incident occurred about 11:30 a.m. on Aug. 4, 2019. Hetzler was hosting an open house in Commerce City at the Aspen Hills Condominiums. Ernest Chrisman came in pretending to be interested in the property. He asked to see the bedrooms upstairs. It was then that Hetzler says Chrisman pulled out a rope and a knife.
“He had first pulled out a knife and very forcefully slammed it on the bed,” Hetzler said.
She says Chrisman threatened her with bear spray, demanded she take off her ring and told her to get in the closet.
Chrisman then sprayed Hetzler's eyes with the bear spray. Hetzler reached for the handgun that she legally carries and fired off a shot. That sent her attacker running.
A construction worker later found a can of bear spray near the scene. The can became a key piece of evidence in the case.
“He found the bear spray, took it home to his wife who is a realtor and asked her to keep it to defend herself. And she said, 'Haven’t you seen the news? This could be evidence'," Hetzler said.
Just four days after the attack, police pulled Chrisman’s prints from the canister of bear spray and arrested him.
On Friday, he was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
FOX31: “Is this justice for you, Dawna?
Hetzler: “There is justice certainly, but I’m just relieved he is off the streets and can’t do this to somebody else. I don’t know if justice is the right word, but it definitely feels like a sense of relief that he has been caught.”
Hetzler now brings a coworker along to her showings but emphases having a plan in place.
“I like to have somebody with me but also someone who is trained. A lot of realtors are like, ‘Oh, just go in pairs.' Well, it doesn’t help if you don’t have a plan," Hetzler said.
She is also using her negative experience for a new platform – safety and empowering women.
“No matter how broken your path is, there is always healing on the other side of that,” Hetzler said.
Hetzler recently spoke with the women’s real estate council about safety and will also be speaking to the Denver Police Academy at the end of the week.
Hetzler is an author and Christian speaker, with a passion for encouraging women. She writes an online blog.