Beginning when she was 16, Hailey Burns was held captive by a man for 13 months. Now, she’s telling her story.
Her ordeal began in May 2016, when she walked out of her Charlotte, North Carolina, home to meet a 31-year-old man she had met online named Michael Wysolovski. Subsequently, she says she was raped, tortured, starved and some- times locked for hours in a dog cage during her long captivity at multiple locations in Georgia.
Her improbable escape began on June 23, 2017: That day, she managed to access to the internet despite her captor’s efforts and met a woman from Romania in a chatroom, in whom she confided.
The Romanian woman, named Kat, then messaged Burns’ mother on Facebook. When Shaunna Burns saw the message, she and her husband Anthony — through Kat — began communicating with their daughter, who didn’t know exactly where she was in Georgia because she’d been moved several times. They immediately called the FBI, but investigators requested more information.
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Luckily, Burns found a picture she had once taken out the window. Shaunna zoomed in on the photo and saw a “For Sale” sign. She was also able to make out a street sign starting with the letters “Sen.”
Using these clues, Shaunna found a listing in Duluth, Georgia, that led authorities to the home. Burns, knowing help was on the way, waited anxiously while Wysolovski played video games in another room.
The nightmare was over.
In May, Wysolovski, 33, who originally faced charges of rape, aggravated sodomy and false imprisonment, pleaded guilty to first-degree cruelty to children and interstate interference after agreeing to a deal with Gwinnett County prosecutors. He was sentenced to 10 years probation and will not spend any time in prison. He will have to register as a sex offender for life.
Today, Burns is still working through the trauma she endured.
She tells PEOPLE, “I know it’s not easy but [I won’t] let it take over my life.”